Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Before You Ask Him

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

By Melanie Rigney
Thus says the Lord: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
From all their distress God rescues the just. (Psalms 34:18b)
Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8)


Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be they name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.


A couple of years ago, I gave a two-day retreat on prayer. The retreat covered a lot of ground: the history of prayer; formed prayer vs. spontaneous prayer; prayer traditions; the origins of the rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet and more; the lives and practices of those like Teresa of Avila and Ignatius Loyola who in essence defined prayer styles; journaling; time for communal and individual prayer. Centering prayer, lectio divina, quotes about prayer from Catholics and other faith traditions… the retreat offered a little taste of a lot of ideas and practices.

Overall, the reviews were positive. I was most struck, however, not by the kind words people provided on the forms, but by the man about my age, late fifties, who came up to me at the very end. “I signed up for this retreat because I was really concerned about my prayer life,” he said. “And no offense, but I think the biggest thing I learned this weekend is that I actually have a pretty good prayer life. I don’t have anything to worry about, really.”

Isn’t that true for all of us, at least some of the time? We fret about whether we’re saying the right words, finding the right style, using the right venue, consulting the right guide. We babble like pagans, we flounder about thinking there’s one best way to make contact with the Lord. We think more is more when it comes to the number of words we use and the number of items we need to have on our prayer list. We forget that while exploring other prayer styles certainly has merit, we’ll never do better than the one Jesus sets forth for us in today’s Gospel. It’s one of the first prayers we learn, and it’s the one we may remember long after all the others have fled our brain. You can say it on auto pilot, you can break it into your own adoration/contrition/thanksgiving/supplication, or you can contemplate over each word. But it doesn’t get any better than the Lord’s Prayer when you’re looking for a way to connect with the Divine.

Say the Lord’s Prayer out loud. Then select five words from it to contemplate for ten minutes. Say the prayer out loud again. Did anything change in your heart and soul?

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