Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quick Thought: Prayer

I often see other Christians walking around wrist bands with catchy sayings or phrases encouraging them and others to engage in prayer and ask Christ to intervene in their lives. One wrist band of this type caught my the other day as I was getting a cappuccino from a particular fast-food outlet with big, golden arches, and the young lady serving me was wearing this wrist band and written on it was "PUSH". I asked the young lady what it meant and she told me, "It means 'Pray Until Something Happens'". I responded by saying, "That's a lovely message. God bless you."

As I reflected on the experience, however, I thought more about the phrase and while I believe it is well intended, I think it needs to be fine-tuned.

Isn't this exactly how we treat God sometimes? As a Father Christmas or genie of whom we only pray to when we want something or as if He has an obligation to do somethig for us to prove that He is in fact listening to us? I mean, it's perfectly fine to prayer with expectant faith when you are in need, but there is more to pray for than just the things you need. In the Catholic tradition there are four forms of prayer:

1. Praise/Adoration - In this form of prayer Christians praise the greatness of God and affirm that reliance on Him for all things and that without Him we cannot do anything. In scripture the Psalms are most well known for prayers of this form.

2. Sorrow - In prayers of sorry we acknowledge our sins and shortcomings and come to God with a contrite heart, seeking His forgivenees and mercy. The 'Act of Contrition' said before Absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is an example of a prayer of sorrow.

3. Thanksgiving - This is simply a prayer of thanks. You may be grateful for good health, good results in an exam, that God has helped you through a personal struggle, etc. There are no limits to what a Christian may be thankful for. The 'Grace before meals' prayer is an example of a prayer of thanksgiving.

4. Intercession - The Communion of Saints also hear our prayers and they pray for us in Heaven; they intercede for us. It is the Lord who ultimately hears and answers our prayers but that doesn't mean we can't have others praying for us, just as you would ask a friend or family member to pray for you for a particular need. The 'Hail Mary' is a prayer of intercession; we ask the Blessed Virgin to pray for us (i.e. "Pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death...").

So as you can see there can be more than one thing to pray for or more than one reason to prayer. The important thing is that you put purpose into your prayer, but to "Pray until something happens"? Why should we stop praying (i.e. "until") when something happens? Why not just pray until you have nothing left to thank for? Yes, that's what I will leave you with for now:

Pray until you have nothing left to pray for!

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