Monday, April 12, 2010

Lord, Hear Our Prayer

Last winter I watched a documentary about a 12 year old Jewish boy with Down's Syndrome who was preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. Everyone who had an important place in this boy’s life was interviewed and they seemed to think that this boy was far more spiritual than anyone they knew and that he had an especially close relationship with God. His main life focus was on his faith and his prayers. Even when he'd be outside on the playground, he would be chanting his prayers.

The interviewer asked him if he thought that God heard his prayers and he said yes. And she asked him if God heard his Dad's prayers (Dad was a Rabbi) and his brother's prayers and he said yes. Then she asked him if God heard his sister's prayers and he said no. When she asked why not, he said it was because his sister didn't pray!

I used to think that if I wasn’t reciting the St. Joseph Novena every day before nine am and the St. Therese Novena every day before 11 am, it was useless, that God wouldn’t hear and answer my prayers favorably. I had so much guilt if I didn’t say a daily rosary, or if I skipped a mealtime prayer. I couldn’t sleep unless I examined my conscience prior to dropping off to slumber. If I forgot to pray the Morning Offering each day before arising, I might as well go back to bed because my entire day was wasted. I was a basket case of guilt and convinced myself that I was a loser at prayer, I couldn’t possibly ever make it to sainthood, and God had lost interest in me because I wasn’t nearly devoted enough to Him.

My whole life I have moved in and out of deep devotion, going for months with much time spent on my knees reciting written prayers, and then going through a stage where written prayers just lost their meaning for me and I simply could not go through the motions and really just gave up. I struggled with this because I know that when our prayer is dry, it means so much to God that we continue, yet I wouldn't make the effort.

Then a wise priest told me that all of my life can be a prayer, as long as I keep my mind focused on Jesus throughout my daily tasks. He told me that folding laundry is a prayer, cooking dinner is a prayer, and even listening to secular music can be a prayer-love songs could be sung in my heart to Jesus and from Jesus. What he was trying to tell me was that like Brother Lawrence and his wonderful way of Practicing the Presence of God, constant prayer could be my way of life as well. It seemed so easy, and it is! I can pray constantly like St. Paul exhorts us, by keeping Jesus in my mind and in my heart in all that I do. The prayer "I love you Jesus" is never far from my heart and I repeat throughout the day. Quotes from scripture come to mind in many situations, and I use them as needed, for example: "I do believe Lord, help my unbelief" and one of my favorites "Look to Him, that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush with shame."

I am finding that living my life in this state of near-constant prayer has been a blessing in all situations. I do still go through stages of deep devotion to daily written prayer, like reciting the Crown of Mary since my consecration and praying the rosary on my daily lunch hour walk, but now, prayer is so much more than that. Prayer is my own personal relationship with God, using my own words and silently listening and watching for the many ways in which He speaks to me as well. I know that the Lord will always hear our prayers if we but open our hearts to Him and His amazing, wondrous ways of working in our lives each day!


  1. Anne,
    Your post made me think of something I once read by St Therese of Liseux. She said that she had difficulty at times with formal written prayers because one was more beautiful than the next. She did more along the lines of what your priest told you. She stayed focused on Jesus throughout her day. I don't have her exact quote with me, but that's a paraphrase.
    I have a picture of Jesus on my desk at work. Some days I don't make it to 7am Mass or have the chance to say Morning prayer. On those days I just offer my day to Jesus in my own heartfelt words and look at that picture throughout the day and tell Him that I love Him. Somehow I think He is OK with that.
    The picture with you post is beautiful.
    Thanks and God Bless!

  2. Great post, Anne! And I agree wholeheartedly.

    I had a priest once tell me in Confession in response to my saying that I felt like I wasn't praying enough, that sometime we need to let go and let Jesus do the work for us (I had a newborn at the time!)

  3. This post reminded me of a favorite saint (actually a Servant of God) of mine... Sr. Consolata Betrone. Her whole spirituality was one of simply offering Jesus a Perpetual Act of Love, for she was too little to allow her heart to be divided between many different spiritual exercises. So Jesus continually told her to simply love Him, and promised that he himself would take care of all of the little things. The common prayer, "Jesus, Mary, I love you, save souls!" is actually one that he taught her. He told her, "What more beautiful prayer would you like to offer me than the act of love? Do you know what Jesus is doing in the tabernacle? He is loving the Father and He is loving souls! That is all. No sound of words, nothing. Only silence and love. So do the same! Gaze upon the tabernacle, and love in that way! Love and souls! Is there anything more beautiful?"

  4. Beautiful post. I so agree. I have a hard time with rote prayer of almost any kind. Seems that God calls me to pray differently. Several times during the day, I stop and say hi to Jesus. I breathe in deep and say His name and remind myself of his presence. And I go to the chapel and gaze at him like Jennifer mentioned above. And I have conversations. Like you, I still have my times of rote prayer, but it is that intimate relationship with Jesus that I crave. God bless!

  5. About two years into my conversion, I struggled similarly, having tried to fit MUCH prayer into each day - I was too enthused for my own good. I was advised much like you were. The priest you consulted is indeed wise, as was the one I consulted... :) Ironically, the integration of daily life and prayer life in my case evolved to a profound advancement in those two sides of my life. I'm so thankful for the priest whose path I crossed once certain day. Remembering it all in the wake of your post is very pleasant for me. Thank you, Anne.