Friday, February 1, 2013

Finding a Place for Prayer

Dear Theophilus, 

Personal prayer is an integral part of developing our Catholic spirituality and deepening our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. As St. Alphonsus Ligouri stated: “He who attends to mental prayer scarcely ever falls into sin, and should he have the misfortune of falling into it, he will hardly continue to live in so miserable a state; he will either give up mental prayer, or renounce sin. Meditation and sin cannot stand together. However abandoned a soul may be, if she perseveres in meditation, God will bring her to salvation.” 

As I’ve written aboutbefore, it takes a conscious effort to develop our prayer lives, whether we are just beginning to navigate the waters of Catholic spirituality or we have already developed our own personal prayer style. There is a continual need to rejuvenate our prayer lives, delving deeper into our relationship with Christ. 

Where we pray can have a great effect on how we pray. The stimulus found in our surroundings can be either beneficial to our prayer life, or they can sometimes be an almost insurmountable barrier. Keeping this in mind, it is important that, whenever possible, we choose our place of prayer with great care. 

I am fortunate enough that I am able to spend my morning prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel of the Catholic high school where I teach. If you have the opportunity to make a visit to a chapel or a church a part of your daily routine, I strongly urge you to do so – you won’t be disappointed with the rewards for your effort. Churches and chapels are unique in that they are specifically designed for prayer. Whether you feel compelled to sit, stand, kneel or prostrate yourself, these sacred spaces have the room for you to do so. Also, architecturally, churches and chapels are designed to draw your focus to the reason why you are there – to have a conversation with God through Christ in the Eucharist in the centrally located Tabernacle. As well, Church art – stained glass, statues and paintings – have all been created to draw our hearts and minds towards God through the saints who continually point towards Jesus Christ. 

It’s an unfortunate reality, however, that not everyone can make a visit to a church or a chapel a part of their daily lives. This doesn’t mean, though, that you cannot recreate the same experience. Make a personal prayer centre in a quiet corner of your home using icons and art that will help draw your heart and mind towards the Lord. Make sure you are comfortable in this area of your home, and that others in your family know to be respectful of it. Still, don’t expect to have the same church-like experience right away, but over time and with practice, making the effort to have some quiet daily prayer will help strengthen your spiritual life. 

I have to admit that a part of my prayer life happens outside as well. While walking the family dog I find time for meditative reflection and a daily reciting of the Rosary. Again, choosing the appropriate outdoor venue for prayer is important. Goldie and I head off for the nature trail near out home for our daily prayer walk. I find it easier to focus my mind on the Lord in the silence of nature, far from the roar of traffic or the joyful shouts of children at the play park. 

I hope that you have also notice, dear Theophilus, an underlying element needed to make a space prayerful – silence. It is in the silence that God will speak loudest to us. It is in the silence that we will hear the Lord’s gentle whisper – calling us towards him. 

Developing a personal prayer life in integral to enriching our life in the Lord. Choosing an ideal place of prayer will help deepen our ever growing relationship with Christ.

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