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Prayer

Hints and Tips
Prayer and Holiness
Prayer Corner
Saints

Hints and Tips

Over the last number of years, I have never ceased to be amazed at how prayer can be answered, although often it is in the way we least expect it! Prayer is something of a mystery. We don’t know exactly how it works, but in faith we pray!

Here are some helpful hints and tips on praying:

  • Prayer is the means by which we can deepen our relationship with God. It is like a telephone line, and when we pick up the phone we have a one-way trunk call to God.
  • Prayer is not just talking to God about people or situations for which we have concern; we also need to give God time to speak to us … and that means we need to listen as well.
  • Prayers can be said anytime during the day or night…whatever you are doing.
  • If it is helpful, praying can be done alone quietly in a room, or as a group.
  • I doesn’t matter too much about the quantity of people praying, but  what does matter is the quality of prayer … it needs to come from the heart.

If we are serious about our relationship with God then we must be serious about prayer.

  • Sometimes we may know individuals who cannot pray because they are bereaved, depressed, or ill. It is up to us as disciples of Jesus, to pray for them on their behalf. We should pray for God to bless them and give them strength and an inner peace.   

 

Prayer and Holiness

‘Holiness’ cannot be defined and can never be adequately described, as holiness means that God is present. In exploring the meaning of holiness we are not only searching for God, but also the meaning and value of our lives. In coming to know God, we find ourselves, because it is in God that we live and move and have our being. Below are some comments from Gerard Hughes book ‘God in all things’, where he gives indications to our own personal journey and spirituality to seek God and to find holiness. 

  • Hunger for Knowledge and Truth is a sign of our holiness, as God beckons us into a deeper communion with him.  

  • The gift of awe and wonder, enabling us to sense the sacredness of a particular place, or  glimpse the of depth in another person is also a sign of holiness.
  • Laughter as a sign of holiness is the ability to laugh at ourselves, and see the comedy of a situation. A spirit of joy and merriment has been one of the special hallmarks of those who are declared saints!! 
  • Human Love and desire as a sign of holiness.
  • Love can take us out of ourselves, but there is always a part of us where no person, no created thing can satisfy our inner hunger.
  • Loving another person releases us from our self-centredness and draws us into the service of others.  

Prayer Corner

Prayer is personal, Prayer is private, Prayer is secret, Prayer is silent

Yet when believers meet together ...

Prayer is corporate, Prayer is public, Prayer is shared, Prayer is spoken


Prayer can be a paradox.  On the one hand, Prayer is personal, private and silent, yet every week when we come to worship, Prayer becomes a public event.

  • How does that which is beyond words find words to express itself ?
  • How can Prayer be done in such a manner that its private and personal nature does not become embarrassing, and yet its public collective utterance does not empty it of all meaning?

There are times in our Prayer life, when words are just not appropriate... only silence touches the deepest prayer need.

Silence in worship can enrich our corporate prayer life, as well as keeping it personal.

There are particular prayers which lend themselves to short periods of silence.

  • Firstly Prayers of Confession, when we can personally and silently tell God about our selfishness towards others, and our self centeredness.
  • Secondly Prayers of Intercession when we can privately pray to God about people we personally know and global situations that we are concerned about.

Make the most of these silences, not just in worship but in the comings and goings of life's activities. We meet God everywhere and in all people, therefore our thoughts, words and actions are a constant prayer to God .
However, remember the silence... for it is in the silence that we utter the unspoken words and touch God with the emotions of our hearts.

Saints

St Teresa of Avila
St John of the Cross
St Ignatius
Julian of Norwich
Henri Nouwen

St Teresa of Avila

StTeresaSt Teresa of Avila was born on 28 March 1515 in Spain. She was reputedly very beautiful, witty, charming, persuasive and enjoyed entertaining friends.
She entered the Convent of the Incarnation, Avila in 1536, and the following year fell seriously ill. She recovered and although her life oscillated between frivolity and entertaining friends, her deepest desire was for a friendship and union with God.
She doubted her own ideas and experiences, but courageously cultivated the presence of God and sought his companionship in her own daily life.
She died in 1582, aged 67 yrs. She faced many persecutions, from outside and inside the religious order, but her story shows that Teresa was not born a saint. She became one by struggling to respond to her Lord and God; first by sheer will power and then by a desire to return love for Love.
Her are two examples of her prayers.

St Teresa's Bookmark

Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee,
All things are passing
God never changeth;
Patient endureth
Attaineth to all things
Who God possesseth
In nothing wanting
Alone God sufficeth.

 

A Garden for the Lord

A beginner must look upon himself
As making a garden,
Wherein our Lord may take His delight,
But in a soil unfruitful and abounding in weeds.
His Majesty roots up the weeds,
And sets good plants in their place.

Let us take for granted,
That this is already done
When a soul is determined to give itself to prayer,
and has begun the practice of it.

We have then, as good gardeners,
By the help of God to see that the plants grow,
To water them carefully,
That they may not die,
But produce blossoms,
Which shall send forth much fragrance,
Refreshing to our Lord,
So that He may come often for His pleasure
Into this garden,
And delight Him in the midst of these virtues.

St John of the Cross

StJohnCrossSt John of the Cross was born in Spain in 1542, he was a friend of Theresa of Avala. He founded a Carmelite monastery in Spain, and the male order became known as the 'shoeless' Carmelites.
He was imprisoned for supporting the reformation of monasteries in Spain. Whilst in prison he had visions and began his writings. In his intense mystical writing, he sets out the Christian's ascent to God. His greatest work is 'The Dark night of the Soul' , where he describes how a person must lose every earthy attachment, passing through a personal experience of Christ's crucifixion, to a union with God . He writes that we all have to pass through the darkness, to attain union with God.
After he left prison, he continued writing. He sought to find God beyond the outer limits of human experience.It is a quest which can seem morbid or frighteningly lonely, until we realise that it is the ultimate search for the companionship of God.
The following poem/prayer was written by Mary Hessian after reading his book.

 

The Long night of the Soul

I've been there who has not,
But when you are going through it,
Pleasant it is not.

You feel all alone that no on understands,
confusions reigns at every turn,
Whilst sinking in quick sands.

People say do this
people say do that,
they all have different answers
and they've got them all of pat

No one else can help you
Though they all mean well
It's yourself that truly knows
How to save yourself from hell

Stop listening to all and sundry
Instead listen to yourself
The truth lies deep within you
A fountain of such wealth

Ask yourself what's wrong here
You'll know the answer well
But don't be afraid to admit it
And then your truth to tell

St Ignatius

StIgnatiusSt Ignatius of Loyola is the founder of the Jesuits. He used prayer as a means of centring on God. More than any other prayer, The EXAMEN is the central prayer of St Ignatius.
It is a prayer of looking back. It is not just reflecting on what has gone wrong, but a wider look at what has happened during my day – the good things and the bad things – trying to see where God has been moving.
The Examen is best used regularly. Most people find it helpful in the quiet time before going to sleep. It takes about 15 minutes and covers five points.

1. No matter what I am worrying about ... STOP!

God is with me – quiet perhaps, but always there. I remember that God has created all things. All I have is a
gift from God. Is there something I would especially like to give thanks for today?

2. I ask God to shine his light into my heart so that when I look back over the day I may be able to see God working in the things that have happened.
3. Now I remember through the day starting from when I woke up. I remember the people I met and the things that have happened.
  • On the whole, was is it a "Good" or a "Bad" day?
  • Was it a normal day, or unusual in some way?
  • Whom did I meet during the day?
  • Was there something surprising? A long lost friend, or and awkward old enemy?
  • Does something special come to mind: a beautiful sunset, something I was told, something on TV?
  • God guides us through our moods and feelings. Normally God's way is (in a deep sense) peaceful and consoling. If your day was disturbed or if you were uneasy, can you sense where the uneasiness was coming from?

Like a sailor buffeted by different winds, we are affected by many different feelings. The better we come to know these swirling breezes, the easier it is to see the perhaps subtle movements of God in our lives.

4. An important question to ask is: What can I be proud of today?

(There will be things. If you can't think of anything then you haven't looked hard enough!)

I will give thanks for this. But also, did I turn away from God during the day? Maybe I turned a blind eye when it suited me ? Did I recognise God in that homeless woman, that annoying child or that spiteful old man?
I will say a prayer asking for forgiveness for anything I may have done to ignore or hinder God's love during this past day. I will ask especially for the graces of healing and strength.

5. The final part of the prayer is to look forward to tomorrow.

We are people of hope. Let us remember that God will be with us then.

The Examen is a prayer which helps us become aware of the presence of a loving God, and helps us move into a position where we can look more closely at how God has been moving and working in our life.
The focus the prayer is God – in the case of the Examen, God may appear to have been deeply hidden (or in heavy disguise perhaps) but God has been there nonetheless. Our task is to simply notice.

 

Teach us, good Lord,
To serve thee as thou deservest,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labour and not to ask for any reward,
Save that of knowing that we do Thy will.


St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

Julian of Norwich

JulianNorwichJulian Of Norwich was born in 1342 and died in around 1400. She was a Benedictine nun. In 1373 she became seriously ill and received 16 'Shewings' or visions of our Lord. For twenty years Julian meditated on these visions, and recorded them and their meanings in 'The Revelations of Divine Love' . She insisted that God is all loving and was convinced that 'all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well'.
Here are two 'prayers' from Julian of Norwich for you to meditate on.

God is over all

The Trinity is God and God is the Trinity.
The Trinity is our maker and keeper.
The Trinity is our everlasting lover, our joy and our bliss through our Lord Jesus Christ
Lord you know what I desire,
But I desire it only if it is your will that I should have it.
If it is not your will, good Lord
do not be displeased,
for my will is to do your will.

I desired to suffer with him
He is our clothing.
In his love he wraps and holds us.
He enfolds us for love and he will never let us go.
I saw that he is to us everything that is good.

 

He keeps all that is made

He showed me a little thing,
the size of a hazelnut,
in the palm of my hand,
and it was as round as a ball.
I looked at it with my minds eye
and I thought 'What can this be?'
and answer came, 'It is all that is made'.
I marvelled that it could last,
for I thought it might have crumbled to nothing,
it was so small.
And the answer came into my mind
'It lasts and ever shall because God loves it.
And all things have being through the love of God'.
In this little thing I saw three truths.
The first is that God made it.
The second is that God loves it.
The third is that God looks after it.

What is he indeed that is maker and lover and keeper?
I cannot find words to tell,
for until I am one with him
I can never have true rest or peace.
I can never know it until I am held so close to him
that there is nothing in between.

Henri Nouwen

HenriNouwenHenri Nouwen, was Catholic priest and is seen as great spiritual thinker of our time. He was involved with the L'Arche community, where his prayers were rooted in the ordinary things of life. He wrote many books about living in a modern secular culture. His books reflect an honesty about his experience of God. He talks about God using us 'as channels for Gods love and grace'.

In his book 'With Open Hands', Nouwen reflects on prayer and silence. Here are some of his thoughts:

"We know there is some connection between Prayer and Silence, but if we think about silence in our lives, it seems that it isn't always peaceful, silence can be frightening ."

"There are two silences. One frightening, where we have the busyness of the day's activities roaring in our head. The other peaceful... the silence which is full of sounds, the wind , the leaves rustling, our own quiet breathing, the swallowing in our throat, hearing or feeling our heart beat."

"We are invited by God to move from our noisy world into a 'sound – filled silence' ."

"But moving further is  to achievement of inner silence, a silence of the heart."

"Achieving inner silence is where feelings of love and hate tenderness and pain, forgiveness and greed are separated, strengthened  or reformed by Gods grace.

 

Dear God,
Speak gently in my silence
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings
and the loud inner noises of my fears
keep pulling me away from you.
Help me to trust that you are still there
even when I am unable to hear you.
Give me ears to listen to your small soft voice, saying
'Come to me all who are over burdened and I will give you rest...
for I am gentle and humble of heart''
Let that loving voice be my guide. Amen.

Rev Ruth Dillon

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