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THERE IS NO ONE WAY TO PRAY
There is no one, proper way to pray. Since God made each of us uniquely, God does not expect us to all pray alike. Prayer, at bottom, expresses our feelings. Our prayers reflect our joys and sorrows, our pleas and our gratitude, our contrition and our forgiveness, and our aspirations and disappointments. Each of these are particular to each of us. Some prefer structured, liturgical prayer, while others find meaning in extemporaneous prayer arising out of particular moments when we feel the presence of God in a particular way the authors of prayer books cannot anticipate. Nor is there any properplaceto pray. Prayer offered in an ecclesiastical edifice like a church, monastery or seminary carries no greater efficacy with God than praying while bathing, cooking, or driving to Court. God listens to us wherever we are whenever we turn our thoughts to God.
How, when and where we pray often arises from our faith traditions. Many of us first learned about God from our parents. One of my first childhood memories is saying bedtime prayers. My mother and grandmother taught me to bless myself with the sign of the cross, followed by the Our Father and the Hail Mary. As a 9 year old boy preparing for confirmation, I learned not only the Apostle’s Creed, but the Angelus, traditionally said three times a day, a series of versicles and responses, the first thee followed by a Hail Mary and the last by the collect for the Feast of the Annunciation. As a teenager, I learned prayers of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the Rosary. I still pray pretty much the same way, butalso ask God to assist my mission as a lawyer and I thank God for the many people, places and things which have blessed me abundantly, none of which were possible without God. I also find the Gospels a helpful prayer aid, particularly the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ parables, the Farewell Discourses, and the death and resurrection of Jesus, all of which enrich my understanding of the Jesus whose Body and Blood I receive at Mass.
In addition to the Rosary and other personal devotions, some Christians have a tradition of fixed-hour prayer, that is, prayer at certain times of the day and night as routine habit. This began in monastic communities where monks would pray seven times a day, reciting portions of the psalter and reading scripture. Beginning at the crack of dawn, they would pray the services of Prime and Lauds, followed later by Terce, Sept, and None during the day, Vespers at nightfall, and Compline before bedtime. The Book of Common Prayer continues this tradition in the services of Morning, Noonday, and Evening Prayer plus Compline at days’ end.
But what sets Christian prayer apart from some other traditions is that when we pray, we are never alone. Wealwayspray as part of a community, even when other people are not physically with us. That is because we believe that those no longer with us on earth continue their prayers for us from heaven. Not only does the Blessed Virgin Mary pray with me, but my mother and grandmother as well. That is a very comforting feeling!