“Prayer is to Christians as breathing is to humans.” When I heard those words it brought prayer to a whole new level for me. If that is truly what prayer is then that means I need prayer to survive. Prayer isn’t just for the monks and cloistered nuns but for you and me. Prayer is essential for us to gain a deeper relationship with Jesus. Prayer then must be part of my every day life and not just one hour on Sunday. But why? What is so important about prayer anyways? The main reason prayer is so important is because when someone prays it brings him closer to Christ. Through prayer I can talk to God, listen to Him, and most importantly grow in a deeper relationship with Him. It is our relationship with God that helps us gain Heaven, and prayer is the means to that relationship. Prayer also helps me against temptations, know God’s will, and countless more things in my crazy teenager life. 😉
How To Pray
The first step to praying is to get rid of the distractions and noise. Life is full of noise from morning until night coming from the TV, radio, internet, friends, music, and phone. None of these things are bad, but if they are constantly on there is no chance I will ever be able to stay focused long enough to say a few words in prayer or it will never be quiet enough to hear God’s voice. Think of it like a glass of water being swirled around. The swirling water is like the noise and busyness of life. When you set it down on a still surface it will eventually slow down and stop spinning. Likewise when I place myself in a quiet place I will eventually be able to quiet myself and slow down my mind. It won’t happen right away. It will take time and practice. But I don’t need to worry. St. Josemaria Escrivia says, “You don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in the presence of God, and as soon as you have said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!’ you can be sure you’ve already begun.”
What To Pray
There are many different ways to pray. I can ask God for specific intentions, thank God for prayers answered and blessings given, praise Him for His generosity, or just recite memorized prayers. If I don’t know what to say there are countless books filled with beautiful prayers for specific intentions, from novenas to rosaries, or litanies to vespers. There are so many prayers at our fingertips to make it easier and give us a path on which to start. Just blessing myself with the sign of the cross is a prayer. So even if it is short and sweet, God is smiling at me just because He heard my voice. Okay, I talked about how to speak to God, but what about listening to Him? Imagine having a friend that did all the talking and never gave you a chance to speak. Would it be hard to deepen that friendship? God has many things to say to you and me; he is just waiting for us to listen. Now I can’t go strain my ears for His voice, it doesn’t work that way. One of the many ways God speaks to us is through spiritual reading. St. Isidore of Seville could not say it in better words. “Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading. If a man wants to be always in God’s company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us. All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection. By reading we learn what we did not know; by reflection we retain what we have learned. Reading the Holy Scriptures confers two benefits. It trains the mind to understand them; it turns man’s attention from the follies of the world and leads him to the love of God.”
I have barely scratched of surface of prayer. But I hope that this is at least a starting point for you too. Prayer is so important and takes at least a lifetime to master. Just “pray constantly.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Find time to pray to show God that you truly want to grow in friendship with Him. Start each morning offering it to God and end each day thanking God for His blessings. Say “Hi” to God throughout the day. He is everywhere and always has His ear leaned your way. Pray before a test. Many times I have tried to write an essay and end up frustrated. But then I say a prayer for help and it all ends up working out. St. Anthony said, “The devils tremble at the sign of the cross of our Lord, by which He triumphed over and disarmed them.” When you’re scared bless yourself with sign of the cross. When you have distractions don’t give up. Prayer is a battle of distractions and as long as you are fighting them and offer it up, it can be turned into prayer. Now all you have to do is quite simply pray.