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  A Christian Faith Magazine May 2004, Volume 9, Issue 10  
The Personal Prayer
Rev. Mark Connolly
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Praying Hands

This month I would like to share a few thoughts with you on a subject that is necessary for our sanity and our sanctity. It is the subject of personal prayer and the subject of personal prayerfulness. Just so we understand the difference between prayer and prayerfulness, personal prayer is that which we use oftentimes when we need a favor. We ask God for something. We ask him for a favor to be granted in time of stress or sickness or tragedy. Prayerfulness is a state of mind that finds us constantly fine tuning our relationship with God every day of our life whether we have a tragedy or not and finds us trying to deepen our relationship with God. So prayer basically is something we use when we need something. Prayerfulness is something we have around the clock because our one desire is to fine tune our relationship with God.

Our prayers do not change God. Our prayers don't mean that God is going to answer every request the way we want it to be answered. It is true God answers requests, but oftentimes not the way we ask them. If you study the examples of prayer throughout the history of the church you might recall the story of the woman and mother who lived many centuries ago. Her son was probably the most famous delinquent in all of the history of the Catholic Church. At 17 he had developed a drug problem, at 19 he fathered an illegitimate child, at 21 he developed serious problems of alcoholism and all of a sudden a radical change took place in his life. He became a convert to the Catholic Church. He became a Catholic priest, then a Catholic bishop and finally a Catholic saint. His name is St. Augustine. The one that we should single out today for her life of prayer and her prayerfulness is his mother, St Monica. For almost 20 years she prayed night and day that her son would experience the grace of God and have a conversion that would help him establish a relationship with God.

In history St. Augustine is singled out for all his intellectual brilliance, but in reality the person that helped him achieve his greatness through her life of prayer and her prayerfulness was his mother, St. Monica.

If you study the life of Jesus Christ you might recall that tradition teaches that he had 3 years involved in a public ministry of going from one town to another preaching a gospel of love and a gospel of prayer. If you study the life of Christ deeply, you might recall that he had a hidden life for about 30 years and the gospels tell us over and over that he would retreat into the desert periodically to deepen his prayer life and to deepen his relationship with his father in heaven. Most of us today have a hidden life. Whether we are shopping or driving in a automobile, we have an opportunity to ask God through prayer to help us with our daily obligations. To help us with our daily sacrifices, just to help us in general. You say if prayers do not change God, why bother to pray. The answer is simply prayer helps us to listen to what God has in mind for us. Prayer gives us insight because of our closeness to God that we can get in no other way. Prayer helps us to develop attitudes for the daily problems of life, attitudes such as acceptance and conformity that even in the most dire moments can help us cry out in prayer, not my will be done, but yours.


If you study for example the life of the little flower, here is a remarkable story of a young Carmelite nun, who though 22 years of age, who never left her cloistered convent of Carmel in France, and yet she was declared the patroness of all foreign missionaries and in her canonization process, they told a story of her life of prayer and her prayerfulness while she was a young nun. The story was simply this. One day, and she was an exceptionally sick nun with tuberculosis and at that time TB was generally fatal, one day she was into the convent recreation room, cleaning and dusting and who came into the room but the superior of the convent and she chastised Terese by saying, "Sr. Terese, you know the doctor says you should not be out of bed, you should not be cleaning or dusting because it affects your lungs and this working in the recreation room is going to do more damage to your health." Little Terese, as she was called, said, "but Mother, I am doing all of these small acts of work and offering them up to God so that God will help the missionaries in distant parts of the world to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people wherever they work". This is an example of prayerfulness based on the life of a woman who recited a lot of daily prayers.

Prayer is something. that we offer to God. Prayerfulness is a way of life that we develop while we are on this earth. All of us today know that almost every time we go to a doctor to get a prescription for this or for that, we have billions of Valium sold every year, we have billions of Prozac sold every year to help us increase our peace of mind, but if you go back into the life of your parents and your grandparents, they never had these prescriptions to see them through the dark days of their lives. What they had, I think at times, was even better. They had a sense of prayer and an attitude of prayerfulness. That prayerfulness and that prayer gave them not only peace of soul, but piece of mind. All the great saints of the Church in times of great duress relied on prayer. "A today relies on prayer. Prayer groups of spirituality are springing up all throughout the country so that through a deepening relationship with God, life can become more tolerable for more people.

Whether you make it a point to say a hail Mary, whether you recite the serenity prayer, whether you recite the prayer of St. Francis, those prayers are going directly to the same God. Through your prayer and your prayerfulness, your sanity will be protected and your sanctity will be nourished.

Tennyson once said, Amore things are brought about by prayer, than this world dreams of."

St. Paul constantly reminds us that prayer with faith can move mountains, and that is mountains of stubbornness and willfulness that cannot be changed logic.

Christ said, if two of you join voices on earth to pray for anything, whatever it is shall be granted to you. by my father in heaven. This proves there is no such thing as unanswered prayer.

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