Chapter 1: Cultivating the Soil Rejoice in the Lord always. . . . The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. PHILIPPIANS 4:4–6 Goals: The goal of this chapter is to provide you with a deeper understanding of the nature of prayer. Students will examine the nature of spirituality and the importance of prayer in your daily lives.
What is prayer? • "Great is the mystery of the faith!" The Church professes this mystery in the Apostles' Creed (Part One) and celebrates it in the sacramental liturgy (Part Two), so that the life of the faithful may be conformed to Christ in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Part Three). This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer. • “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look, turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
It is God’s invitation to us to talk and listen to him. • More than anything else, prayer is transformational. • It will change our lives. • As human beings we are a unique creation. We see life from a variety of perspectives. • We look at life through many different “lenses” that help us understand reality.
Recognizing God in the Ordinary • We often look for God in the extraordinary events of human life. We busy ourselves with this notion so much that we fail to recognize God in the ordinary events of our daily life. • Praying is like that too. Praying is not only saying the Hail Mary, or reciting the Rosary, or going to Mass. • It is looking for God in the people around you and in the ordinary events that make up your day. • Prayer is forced silence—taking the time to quiet yourself amidst the clutter of the day and slowing down to listen to God’s voice in your life.
Faith can be described as trusting God with all your heart. • Prayer is the fuel for a mature and vibrant faith life. • Prayer is the intimate communication between God and humans
Prayer as God’s Gift • "Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God."2 But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or "out of the depths" of a humble and contrite heart?3 He who humbles himself will be exalted;4humility is the foundation of prayer, Only when we humbly acknowledge that "we do not know how to pray as we ought,"5 are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. "Man is a beggar before God. "6CCC 2559
Humility comes from trust in God. It includes the realization—and conviction—that you and I don’t have all the answers • Life involves mystery. For some, that realization grows out of our gut when we acknowledge that some questions are too big to be scientifically addressed, and we acknowledge God. At that point we learn humility. We acknowledge that we aren’t at the center of the universe. • The Judeo-Christian tradition believes that life is a gift. Prayer is a gift. God is the giver. God creates human beings in his image just because God wants to. • We inherit the sacred and are part of a profound mystery. Each of us is invited to live this awesome mystery we call human life. It is a gift, a marvelous gift.
Prayer as Covenant • Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ. It is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves. CCC, 2564 • God’s covenant with us unites us with God in Christ. Through baptism we are united in Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Our prayer flows from this covenant.
Prayer as Communion • In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Kingdom is "the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity . . . with the whole human spirit."12 Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him. This communion of life is always possible because, through Baptism, we have already been united with Christ.13 • Prayer is Christian insofar as it is communion with Christ and extends throughout the Church, which is his Body. Its dimensions are those of Christ's love.14 • We believe in this communion of life with the Holy Trinity. In baptism we are united with Christ and his Body, the Church; we receive the gift of the Spirit and new life as adopted children of God.
Chapter Summary Saint John Damascene described prayer as “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” In this chapter we learned: 1. Prayer is an expression of our belief that we live in a “vital and personal relationship with the living and true God” (CCC, 2558). 2. Prayer is God’s gift to us and our response to God, who invites us to share in his life and love. 3. Humility is the foundation of a life of prayer. It recognizes that life is both sacred and a mystery. 4. Prayer is an expression of our belief that we live in a covenant relationship with God. “Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ” (CCC, 2564). 5. Prayer is an expression of our belief that we are children of God, living in communion with the Holy Trinity.