No matter where we are in our spiritual life, even if we have spent fifty years as a monk, we still have much to learn when it comes to prayer. “We always need to learn to pray and to start anew in prayer and to go deeper in prayer.”
Fr. Jacques Philippe, a priest of the Community of the Beatitudes and the author of seven books on prayer and spirituality, offered these insights about prayer recently during a daylong retreat in Charlotte, North Carolina. Other insights included:
Why We Pray
–Pope St. John Paul II wrote that the first role of the Christian is to bring others to prayer. “If the Church does this, everything else will fall into place.”
–Like the apostles, we learn how to pray by watching and emulating Our Lord Jesus Christ, who took time to pray in solitude alone with God the Father. We, too, need to spend time alone with God. “This should be our desire.”
–God calls us to pray unceasingly so that we can enter into friendship with him: “The first call of God is not to do things but to be with him.”
–Prayer shows us who we are in reality. In prayer, we see our poverty before God, and our sin. We also see God’s unique love for us and discover our true personality and the gift we can be to God and others.
–“When we pray, we will eventually experience a sense of poverty. We eventually will see all of our defects, the way we see the dust in the atmosphere in a shaft of sunlight.”
–Some fear silence and solitude, because they fear meeting themselves. In prayer we see our poverty and our limits; we learn to say: “I’m poor, and so what? God is my richness.”
How We Can Pray Well
–We pray well when we are faithful to our daily prayer and persevere despite obstacles. Making time to pray for a set time each day is the foundation of a good prayer life.
–How you pray, or the method you use, is not important. More important is your attitude. In addition to having an attitude of poverty and humility in prayer, we must also learn to see prayer as an act of faith, hope, and charity that helps us grow in these virtues.
–The perfect method of prayer does not exist, but we can journey humbly through life with an attitude of faith, hope, and love.
—Prayer is an act of faith, because praying demonstrates our belief in God.
—Prayer is an act of hope, because when we pray we place our hope in God rather than in ourselves.
—Prayer is an act of love, because through prayer we demonstrate our love for God and neighbor. Sometimes we think of prayer as merely a duty, but we must instead see prayer as a gift of God through which we give God the gift of ourselves in love.
–We do not always need to talk to God in prayer.
–Prayer does not need to be complicated. Prayer can be as simple as spending time in Eucharistic adoration, sitting quietly before the cross or an icon, or praying the Rosary or the Jesus Prayer. It can be as simple as reading and meditating on Scripture, or repeating and meditating on short passages of Scripture.
–If you wish to develop a prayer life, you can start with praying fifteen minutes a day along with setting aside some time each week for silent prayer such as Eucharistic adoration.
–To pray well, we must “use the method that nourishes our faith, hope, and love.”
Interested in Learning More?
Fr. Philippe’s most recent books are Thirsting for Prayer, which was the basis for this retreat, and The Way of Trust and Love: A Retreat Guided by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, both published by Scepter Publishers.
More information about Fr. Philippe, his books, and dates for upcoming retreats can be found at his website.