March 2006 - Volume 10, Issue 8

Personal Prayer

By Rev. Mark Connolly

Photo of a hands locked in prayer

Lent, as all of us know, is the most sacred season in the Catholic Church. We are reminded of the fact that Jesus Christ went through an agony, scourging, crowning and crucifixion for each one of us and so during Lent we are asked to make sacrifices in union with the sacrifice made for us during that first Lent. Sacrifices of every variety are encouraged to make a relationship with Christ closer and the season of Lent more sacred.

I would like to stress one spiritual quality that brings us closer to Christ and helps make Lent more sacred. It is the subject of personal prayer during this season of Lent.

Personal prayer should be considered from several points of view.

First, Christ expects us to pray for our own advantage. He said, "knock and it shall be opened to you, seek and you shall find". What he was saying, if your prayer life is strong, your prayers will be answered in a way that is superior to anything you could achieve on your own. If you study the gospels they tell us over and over again that Christ took periodic times to go away and pray. Why did Christ do this? Prayer helps to listen to what God has in mind for us. Payer gives us insights that we can get in no other way. Prayer helps us develop attitudes for the daily problems of life, attitudes that in time of pain can help us cry out, "not my will be done, but yours." Prayer anchors us to God. Prayer is a coping mechanism that has to be used if you want a solid family relationship to develop. If you, as a mother or father, son or daughter, do not pray for your family, then you are short changing them. We all think of prayer as being exclusively done in the convents and monasteries. But AA will show you or prove to you that more things are brought about by prayer than this world dreams. Prayer is necessary for one's sanctity and one's sanity.

Prayer does not change God. It makes us more aware of the changes God wants us to make in our lives. Prayer gives you new attitudes, new insights about our daily life. St. Augustine once said, "work as if everything depended on you and pray as if everything depended on God." Through prayer, even when you have a heavy cross, he said you develop what he called acceptance of the will of God. St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Thomas believed that if suffering did not pass by Christ, it is not going to pass by us. From the time of our Blessed Mother, down to Mother Teresa, everyone has had some cross to carry and acceptance of the will of God has enabled almost everyone to carry that cross with a little more ease.

The second quality mentioned by St. Augustine is that prayer helps us achieve a conformity to the will of God. Christ, through prayer in the desert, prayer in the carpenter shop, showed that everyone while on this earth has to work to do the will of God on earth and that is done through personal prayer.

Photo of the sun and sky

The third quality that prayer generates is resignation to the will of God. One of the most amazing situations you can see, and see this at Sloan Kettering, is to see people who have accepted the fact that they have cancer. They have resigned themselves to the fact that they don't have heart problems or Alzheimer's. They have cancer and sometimes incurable. That sense of resignation, the attitude of no longer living in anger, gives them a sense of serenity and peace that is achieved either through their prayer life or the prayers that others are offering for them. Prayer is a powerful tool each one of us has. It can help if properly used. Each one of us can become an instrument of peace for ourselves and others.

Today in the medical world, the medical professionals are now showing the healing powers of prayer. Heart attack recoveries, cancer recoveries, all have been helped by the power of prayer. Spiritually and physically, one of the greatest protections and weapons for life God has given is the power of prayer. Lent is that season to develop that prayer life all of us need for sanctity and serenity.