Christ's whole life, even to the last moments on the cross, were illustrations and reminders of the value of personal prayer in his life and how personal prayer can have value and meaning in our life.
If you go and study every comparative religion, whether it is Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, all will teach about the importance of solitude, being alone with your thoughts to commune with a higher power. Every major religious tradition emphasis the importance of personal prayer. When you study the people in literature or scripture they also highlight the importance of prayer. St. Paul reminded us that not only faith, but personal prayer, can move mountains. Tennyson reminded us of the value of personal prayer when he said, more things are brought about by prayer than this world dreams of.
Why is prayer of so much importance to us? Prayer is not only a help in helping us protect our sanctity, it is a major factor in helping us protect our sanity. Prayer is a quality that protects your peace of soul. If there is any quality in your life that protects you for every day living it is the value of personal prayer. If you highlight the importance of prayer in our every day living, we have to keep in mind three things. First, prayer gives us insight that we can get in no other way. Logic, reason, in no way compare with the insights and the intuitive ideas that we get through a deep personal prayer life. If you study, for example, the prayer life of St. Monica, the mother of the most famous juvenile delinquents of all time, you might recall that she prayed night after night that God would turn around the mind of her delinquent son to more noble and more beautiful goals. And God did turn around the mind of that delinquent son. His name was St. Augustine.
Prayer helps us in controlling our tempers. Prayer reminds us that when we are angry in an unjustifiable manner we are going contrary to the teaching of love as taught by Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ said love one another as I have loved you, he gave us an ideal and a principal. Jesus Christ never intended that principal of life that he gave us to be violated by uncontrollable and unjustifiable outbursts of anger. All of us have to examine our social conscience today concerning how we relate to people outside and inside our own home. When you analyze this tremendous problem of road rage that is killing so many people, when you analyze the factor of domestic violence that is so rampant, not only throughout our own country but throughout our own communities, it is a reminder that we in no way can ever contribute unjustifiable outburst or outrageous manifestations of anger just because this kind of anger is rampant in our homes and in our communities.
If you analyze the teachings of Jesus Christ, who spoke so frequently on love, you might recall that the most vehement words Christ ever spoke were against those who indulged in unjustifiable angry outbursts. Christ would be appalled at the number of adults who use unwarranted language in their own home. Christ would be shocked at the foulness of our language in relationship to others. How does this elimination of anger connect with the element of personal prayer. Personal prayer gives us an awareness of what God expects us to do and how God expects us to act. Personal prayer makes us receptive to the thoughts of God as they come from the mind of God and enter into our own mind. Personal prayer links us to the mind of Christ, no other form of intellectual action is as powerful as that personal prayer that brings us union with God and intimacy with Christ.
Personal prayer, when you consider Christ getting away into the desert and Christ separating from his apostles and his mother, you have to reflect that there were strong reasons why he did it. He wanted to have total communion with God, his father, and he had to isolate himself and those around him so that his mind and the mind of God would be totally linked together. Personal prayer is one of those qualities that we talk about which seems to apply to somebody else, but not to us. If you study, for example, the history of alcoholic anonymous you will find that anyone who has ever attended an AA meeting and has read the twelve steps of alcoholic anonymous is able to recite that principal highlighting the prayer life of the members or the individuals who have alcoholic problems. They will tell you that they were powerless with the problem of alcoholism until they separated from the main events of their lives and developed a closeness and communion with God that enabled them to conquer the problem of alcoholism.
Personal prayer not only helps an individual control his or her temper, personal prayer helps us develop a value system that we might be inclined to negate because of the pace of our society and the pace of our lives. Personal prayer enables us to have an awareness of the value and the importance of the time we have on this earth. We are on this earth for a very short period of time and we cannot waste it with arguments and trivialities that prevent us from developing a closer communion with God. That same God gives us 1440 minutes per day, 24 hours a day. And during that time, in the language of St. Paul, we are to glorify and offer praise to God for all of the gifts that he has given us. Personal prayer helps us to be aware of how grateful to God we should be for the gifts God has given us. Personal prayer teaches us a sense of appreciation. We have eyes to see, ears to hear, we are living in a community and a country that is unlike any others throughout the world. God has allowed us to be privileged and God expects us to develop a prayer life that will help us to have a greater sense and greater appreciation of the gifts God has given to each one of us.
When you go back into the history of Jesus Christ, he made it very clear when he said, wherever two or three are gathered together in my name there I am in the midst of them. Many of us years ago grew up reciting the rosary and the prayer of the rosary went on and on. What we did not realize was that the repetition of these prayers were like a mantra something constantly repeated that cleansed our minds and opens our hearts to the guidance and inspiration of a God from Calvary who died on the Cross out of love for each one of us. In recent years all of us have heard the prayer, God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Each one of us has heard over the years the beautiful prayer of St. Francis, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace...where there is hatred, let me bring love...where there is despair, let me bring hope. These prayers, memorized and repeated, can become a new mantra that opens up our minds and our hearts to a loving God. These prayers, repeated, can give us insights we can never get on our own. These prayers enable our mind to be linked with the mind of Christ. Jesus Christ reminded us to pray always and taught us that no prayer is ever unanswered. St. Bernard, once in speaking about Christ, said the same Jesus Christ died on a cross for all of us. One thing we must keep in mind - he who anticipates our prayerful petition will never deny our request.
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