Tuesday, April 02, 2013

How Does One Pray?

Prayer is as varied as the person doing the prayer. There are many forms and formulas of prayers but they acquire distinct differences because people and souls are different.  What is prayer?  How does one pray?
My intention is not to write a treatise on prayer!  I am not an expert on prayer.  But someone asked me, "how do you pray?"  This blog is an attempt to answer that question and a desire to share.

Early in my spiritual life, prayer for me was a set of formulas composed by spiritual masters and Saints.  They consisted of devotions and novenas.  I found pleasure in making novenas to Mary, the Child Jesus and the Sacred Heart.  This was passed on to me by my mother and grandmother.  I loved reading the lives of Saints and their sentiments shaped and formed my desires and longings.  I prayed with words or vocal prayers.  The Rosary was and is also very important to me.  I loved spiritual songs.  The words in these songs made me think of spiritual things and often times I thought of them.  Vocal prayers are good because they feed our minds and inflame our hearts with love for God and things which are above.  They lift us up in prayer.
In the course of my spiritual life, I learned how to meditate.  I began to set aside consistent time for quiet prayer, a quiet corner somewhere where I can "think" and be alone.  I started with half an hour and later on progressed to an hour.  I picked out books which appealed to me.  There was this one book I used a lot when I was in College.  I can't remember the title but it dealt with the Passion of Jesus.  It was a very good book for meditation.  I like praying alone.  I like praying before a visible holy object like the Crucifix or statue of Mary or a Saint.  I like praying with something in front of me like a book for meditation or something to hold my attention.  I like to imagine what the story is trying to present to me.

After College, I met the Carmelites and my way of praying changed.  I began to apply  the teachings of our Carmelite Saints about prayer.    First St. Therese, then St. Teresa of Avila, and then St. John of the Cross.  Some of my favorite quotations on prayer is St. John of the Cross' "The Word  was revealed in silence and in silence it must be heard." and "we should silence our appetites before this great God, for the language He hears best,  is the silent language of love."  I  habitually joined the nuns in Chapel for "mental prayer" or meditation for an hour  I began to enter the phase of appreciating the value of silent prayer, no particular thought, just resting in the Lord.  Dryness began to happen, there were no good feelings or good thoughts, but I persevered until we finish the time allotted for prayer.

When I entered religious life, my prayer life was even more developed.  Because of the structure of convent life time was more available for prayers.  My prayer life can be divided into the Communal (time prayed with the Sisters) and Personal (prayer time on my own.)  Our Communal prayer consists of participating in Holy Mass together, reciting the liturgy of the hours which is the prayer of the Church, reciting the Rosary together, reciting some vocal prayers and devotional  novenas together.  My personal prayer is spent in many ways that I can think of.  Meditation is part of my day.  I don't use as many books like I used to.  Just being in the Chapel and looking at the Crucifix or Blessed Sacrament is enough to make me pray.  In praying, it is important not to depend on feelings so much.  They come and go.  Just going to spend time is prayer, whether we feel like it or not, is enough because the important thing is our good will to be with the Lord.  It is important to be faithful to the time designated to prayer.  This makes for a good habit and good habits develop to virtues.

As I said before, prayer is as different as people's personalities.  Grace is built on nature.  The best clue we have in finding out if we are praying well is the good works we perform.  True prayer always produces good fruits.  We can go off in lonely places often to pray or recite many novenas as we would like, or stay long hours in Chapel, but if they don't make us more charitable and giving of ourselves to others, or more patient and accepting of God's will in our lives, we are just babbling and dreaming.  Jesus said "you will know the tree by its fruits."


  1. Thanks for this post, Sister. I like to get up early and pray before the rest of the world is up and making noise. I also enjoy my weekly "appointment" with Jesus in the perpetual adoration chapel in my parish early Sunday mornings. I usually read something at home first and meditate on it while in the chapel. The chapel is a good place to listen without distraction.

  2. Thanks for your comments! Prayer is always possible even for busy people. It's just a matter of where a person's priorities lie. As the saying goes, where there's a will, there's a way.