As Catholic’s, we often associate praying with long traditional prayers that we have learned and recited from the time we were children. But real prayer is the prayer that comes from deep down in your heart. It is an intimate act. It is taking a pause from this crazy world we live in to talk to Jesus.
As a Catechist, I am often asked, “What is the correct way to pray?” I always reply that there is not a right way or wrong way to pray. As stated, prayer is intimate act is between you and Jesus!
Prayer can be used to get whatever is bothering you off your chest. We can also thank God for everything He has given us. We can even ask Him for virtuous strength, and much, much more. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).
Our Lenten Journey
Prayer is both spiritual and therapeutic, especially during this time of Lent when where we are called to do penance and self-reflect.
We are often tested on a daily basis during this time of Lent. The test can be anything from a flat tire on the way to work, to the co-worker that cannot pull his or her own weight. Or it can be our kids’ never ending quest to grab our attention at the least favorable time. Take advantage of these tests.
Thank Jesus for the flat tire on the way to work. How is that flat tire a blessing you ask? Well, you were rushing out the door on your way to work, and now you have some time to take a step back and catch your breath
As for that co-worker, maybe he or she is in need of your prayers. Ask God to help him or her with whatever it is that is preventing him or her from doing a good job.
And thank Jesus for the screaming kids. The screaming kids running a muck are healthy, playful, and just being kids! It’s a perfect time to close our eyes and be thankful for our kids and for being in such high demand.
Check Engine Light Catholics
Unfortunately there are too many what I call ‘Check Engine Light Catholics’ running around.
The Check Engine Light Catholic is one who is in the fast lane, doesn’t have time to pray, attend mass or give any thanks or praise whatsoever. They may receive ashes on Ash Wednesday and only go to Mass on Easter and on Christmas Day. They fall into the trap of not reflecting or praying on a regular basis, until it’s too late and something catastrophic happens. Then they are slammed to their knees. That is when their Check Engine light comes on.
Full disclaimer, I have been guilty of this very thing. There was a time, when I had just started a new career, working six or seven days a week, and being Superman with not a care in the world. In a blink of an eye, my world came crashing down. All of a sudden I was on my knees, wondering what had happened to my life.
Like most Hispanic Catholic’s, I’ve long kept a lit candle in my house. Suddenly by I found myself praying by that candle, asking the Lord, what did I do to deserve this pain in my life? I asked the Lord to deliver me out of the pain and heartache I was going through. From that day forward I began attending mass every week, not missing a Sunday.
It’s Only Weird if It Doesn’t Work
Not long after this I met with a priest mentor of mine and asked him flat out, “Should I keep candles lit?” He gave me a puzzled look and said, “It’s up to you, but you should only keep the candles lit while you’re praying. When we light candles, we are remembering the Lord’s words, “I am the Light of the World.”
Lighting a candle helps us keep Jesus close to us. The flame rising up reminds that our requests do rise up to heaven. In the same way, if we are asking a saint to pray for us, the flame depicts our request rising up to the saint in heaven.
For many Catholics, there is something that makes prayer deeper and more meaningful when we light a candle in our home or at church. Just as with blessing ourselves with Holy Water and the Sign of the Cross, lighting a candle for prayers is a way to have a personal connection with the Lord.
If you never have tried to pray in this manner, you might consider giving it a try, especially during this Lenten season. Start a routine of praying daily and watch your outlook and general stress of life start to be less of a burden and more manageable. When you give your troubles to the Lord, you have more focus on living an active Christian life. Our stresses can drive us to commit sin and neglect our Catholic values. A healthy prayer life will make life less threatening and less stressful.
In the Confirmation, RCIA and Adult Faith Formation classes, I always give my students a Ten-Day Challenge. I tell them for ten days, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and before work or school to pray with all of their heart. There is no right or wrong way to do it, I remind them. I tell them to empty their hearts and minds of all anxiety, stress, and pain and give it to the Lord.
I also give them my favorite Philippians quote, and remind them to use it to their advantage. Asking God to “keep us free from sin and safe from all distress” is an easy prayer to remember and recite. And think too, about what we say before communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We need to remember that just because we sin, doesn’t mean we will be excluded from the graces of Jesus or the Catholic Church.
If you are still struggling on what to give up for Lent, instead of practicing abstinence see how powerful introducing more prayer into your life can be, not only during Lent, but moving forward with your Catholic journey. Open your heart to Jesus and the Catholic way and you will see the full light of Christ’s sacrifice. God Bless.