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Wednesday, 03 March 2021 20:56

Lent and the Gift of Prayer

2021.09.Lent.Prayer.Main Blog Image

 

In his Lenten Message for 2021, Pope Francis reminds us that Lent is a time for believing, for welcoming God into our lives and allowing him to “make his dwelling” among us (cf. Jn 14:23). We are invited and challenged to grow closer to God and to allow him to draw nearer to us. He also reminds us that "Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus (cf. Mt 6:1-18), enable and express our conversion. The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity". In this three-part series, we will consider the place of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in our Lenten journey to Easter and beyond. 

Today, in part one, the focus is on prayer. Immediately I am reminded of a story. While caring for my young nieces in the holidays, I was praying with them as they were going to bed. At the end, I said AR -MEN, only to have my nine-year-old niece correct me and say, ‘it’s not AR-MEN, it’s AY-MEN’, and for my six-year-old niece to say, ‘yeah, and anyway aren’t AR-MENS a type of food’ – (I think she meant almonds!) Well while it might not matter how we end our prayer (as in if we say AR-MEN or AY-MEN), I think it matters a little more how we begin.

There are many ways to pray, but at the heart of them all is a desire to connect with Jesus (or at least a desire to have the desire!). Yet all too often, I head into our chapel or into a time of prayer with my mind elsewhere. I can be consumed with thoughts about my day that has been, or my days to come. Sometimes this running commentary is superficial and more a distraction than anything else as I find myself pondering what I will cook for dinner or the five things I need to remember to tell the other sisters. Yet at other times, this running commentary feeds directly into my prayer, and is indeed the place that the Lord calls me to be.

For me, I think the key way of discerning the difference is to consciously ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me through my time of prayer so that I might stay with the things that will draw me closer to God, and let go of those that are distractions. I think there are a number of ways we can do this – consciously ask the Holy Spirit to guide our time of prayer, that is – so here are a few suggestions.

  • Just ask – use your own words and phrases to ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to settle into your time of prayer and be open to God.
  • Pray in tongues.
  • Pray the Our Father, slowly and prayerfully.
  • Listen to a song that connects you deeply and settles you into the presence of God.
  • Focus on your breathing, perhaps also saying a prayer word as you breathe in and out.
  • Focus on an image that helps to still your mind.

So if you are in need of ideas to get your prayer started and to settle into the presence of God, why not give one of these a go. And when you are done, why not make the Sign of the Cross and finish with a big AR-MEN or AY-MEN.

Mel Edwards