One of the more common concerns expressed by Catholics and other people of faith is that something is missing from their prayer life. It may be that they are having trouble finding the words to communicate with God, or they don’t feel He is listening to their prayers, or they feel cut off from Him because of a problem or situation in their life.
Prayer, and removing impediments to communication with God, seems like an appropriate topic, especially since we are in the holy season of Lent. One of the purposes of Lent is drawing closer to the Lord so that we will be fully able to celebrate the glory of Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Ironically, I don’t ever remember receiving so many opportunities to pray along electronically with others as I did this Lent. You may have too. I said yes to the daily Lenten Scripture meditations offered by Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron through his Word on Fire Ministries, and for the past couple of years, I’ve also enjoyed the brief video reflections offered by Cardinal Dolan. There also have been offers extended by priests in the archdiocese, and by my home parish in Rockville Centre.
These outreach efforts conveniently come to my email box. They probably each take two or three minutes a day. They are good day-starters, and help me to begin to frame my day in God’s word. You can’t say yes to every offer you receive, no matter how good, but one or two can help you set the right tone for Lent.
I’m just a regular guy, with no special training, but I have picked up a few prayer secrets of my own over the years.
Several months ago, I became involved with a simple prayer ministry at our parish. Each month, the members of the prayer ministry team receive a list of prayer intentions submitted by parishioners. Some months the list runs two pages long with 50 or 60 intentions expressed; other months it’s more like half that number. The concerns for which parishioners are seeking prayers run the gamut from family members and friends who are sick, children who are applying to college, marriages in need of assistance and the repose of the souls of loved ones.
When I first received the list, I remembered feeling a little overwhelmed by the number of requests. I soon realized that I needed a strategy. I decided to pray for the intentions each Saturday morning. Obviously, there is extra time available on weekends, but another reason I chose to do these prayers is because I am an early riser.
I usually wake up and go downstairs a couple of hours before my wife. It’s easy to devote 15 or 20 minutes to prayers for others in the parish. I have a regular spot near a (usually) sunny window. The Sunday Mass readings with a couple of discussion points are enclosed with the intentions, so you can review week by week what you will be hearing the next morning.
There are all sorts of parish prayer ministries and groups. This one is very easy to set up. It can be adapted to an email distribution. I love the connectedness it fosters with other parishioners who are requesting the prayers. We may not ever meet face to face, but we are joined together in prayer.
That brings me to another form of prayer, the celebration of Mass. As I have gotten older, I have gained a much greater appreciation for coming together to pray as a community. We Catholics can sometimes take it for granted, or go through the motions of attending Mass out of obligation instead of fully participating.
It’s easy to let things slide or even slip away. Lent, too, is a good time to get back to Mass for the joy of praying together with others Catholics who believe what you do.