Last week we recalled the traditional Lenten practices: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. This week, we focus on prayer. We ask the Lord to draw us to a deeper and broader vision of care for others and the world.
In the Gospels, Jesus was moved with compassion for the crowds (Matthew 9:36). He embraced the poor, the sick, and those who were outcast, offering them hope in a God who loved them. The crowds came to Jesus, and He taught them, healed them, forgave them, and cast out the demons that afflicted them. Our Lenten prayer can help us see and hear the Jesus who cares for, loves, and ministers to His people, “the least of these,” (Matthew 25:40).
Prayer opens us to God’s Spirit, energizing our capacity to care, following the example of Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Jesus revealed God as Father, making all of us sisters and brothers. We are one human family, transcending the differences between us (Galatians 3:26-28). Human solidarity springs from God’s vision of all His people living together in peace and justice. Human solidarity is a theme from Catholic Social Teaching.
There are many different prayer forms and styles in Christian tradition. The “right” prayer method is the one we choose that draws us closer to God.
Here are just two forms:
One method is to read a Gospel story from the public ministry of Jesus and use our imagination to “paint” the scene in our mind and engage our senses – placing ourselves into the story. We can pray that God’s Spirit will lead our reflection. In the family, we can share the reading of the sacred text and the thoughts and feelings that arise from our imagining. Our closing prayer could simply be a prayer of gratitude for how the story affected us.
Another prayer method is to pray the Rosary as a family.Venerable Patrick Peyton tirelessly promoted the praying of the Rosary as a source of grace for family unity and peace in our world. The Rosary celebrates God’s care for the individual family and the entire human family. Father Peyton’s message encourages us, “The Family That Prays Together Stays Together.”
The repetition of the Hail Mary in the Rosary lets us rest and reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation – God with us. The Hail Mary brings together the voices of the angel Gabriel, Mary’s relative Elizabeth, and our own. The prayer reflects God’s love, the family, and our needs in the light of Mary’s faithful acceptance of God’s care for her and all humanity.
Some other thoughts on prayer that may be helpful:
Ideally, we can set aside a regular time to pray.
Finding time to pray can be challenging. The desire to pray is a prayer – we trust God’s Spirit knows our desire.
It can be beneficial to choose a consistent, quiet, relaxed space for prayer.
Life is often hectic; sometimes, it’s messy and frantic. Once, a frantic St. Peter, sinking beneath the waves, called out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30). Prayer can be brief!
Prayer is adaptable, flexible to the person, and circumstances. God’s Spirit surprises.
Sometimes it can be refreshing to mix up the form, time, and space for prayer. Take a walk, enjoy the sun, the wind, the stars - or rain! Maybe prayer can be just sitting in quietness. The 16th-century Carmelite mystic, Saint John of the Cross, observed that silence gives God the opportunity to speak.
Gratitude for small steps forward in our prayer life is a blessing – growth in prayer is more like a long nature walk than a sprint.
Additional resources for families:
Busy families can download free apps to learn to pray the Rosary or accompany their family prayer ... and use wherever they are!
View and discuss the short 5-minute video, Prayer, on Catholic Central by Family Theater Productions, a ministry of Holy Cross Family Ministries.