Forms, Well-springs, Guides and Expressions of Prayer, Encountering Jesus Retreat, Part III, November 15-17, 2002

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Retreat given at Sacred Heart Retreat House
Alhambra, California
“Encountering Jesus”
November 15-17, 2002

• Prayer, as we’ve discussed, is a loving dialogue with the Lord, in which we try to seek Him, find Him, love Him, obey him, and become more and more like Him.
• This loving dialogue can take many forms, much as human conversation can. There are many things that we can talk about with God in prayer. There are many places we can go for help, so that this conversation can be more and more fruitful.
• Prayer can’t be reduced to spontaneous outpouring of interior impulses.
• To pray, one must
1) have the will to pray
2) learn to pray
• For example, it’s not just learning what Scriptures say about prayer, but actually praying. Jumping in the water.
• HS teaches children of God how to pray.
• Tradition of Christian prayer is one in which tradition of faith grows, through believers’ treasuring in their hearts events and words of salvation and the spiritual realities they experience.
• Prayer is the life of the new heart and ought to animate us at every moment.
• “We must remember God more often than we draw breath” (St. Gregory of Nazianzen)
• St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times.
• We can’t pray at “all times” if we don’t pray at specific times, consciously willing it. These are the special times of Christian prayer, both in intensity and duration.
• Church’s tradition proposes certain rhythms of praying to nourish continual prayer.
• Morning and evening prayer
• Grace before and after meals
• Liturgy of the Hours
• Sundays, centered on Eucharist
• Liturgical year and feasts
• Lord leads people by the paths he chooses, and each believer responds according to personality.

• Prayer is encountering God. We can get to know someone by talking to them directly, be we also can get to know that person by simply spending time with that person, talking to his friends, or reading what he’s written or said before. It’s the same way with God. We can get to know him by conversing with him, by talking to his friend (the saints, spiritual directors, religious, priests, holy lay people), reading what he’s told us in Sacred Scripture, etc.

• In this conference this afternoon, we’re going to go more in depth about how to pray well. We’re going to talk about four things in general, basing ourselves on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which in the fourth section synthesized for us very well what the saints in the Church have learned about prayer throughout the centuries.
• The first part will be what are called the “forms” of prayer, what tone or mood our prayer will take.
• The second part will concern the well-springs or fonts of prayer, what we might call the raw materials that we use to seek, find, love, obey and become more like God. These are like the ingredients for the meal of prayer that we make in tandem with the Holy Spirit.
• The third part will be the Guides of prayer, those who can teach us to pray better.
• Finally, we’ll tackle what are called the “expressions of prayer,” the actual “structure” of the conversation we have with the Lord.
• These terms themselves are not all that important and will make more sense as we go through them what we’re talking about. The important thing is to focus on integrating what we learn into our own life of prayer, which is the life of a disciple.

• The forms of prayer
• These forms of prayer concern, basically, what we’re talking about with the Lord.
• Just as in human conversations, we’ll occasionally thank others for kindnesses, we’ll praise them if they’ve done something well, we’ll ask for their forgiveness if we’ve hurt them in any way, we’ll ask them for things they might be able to help us with; it’s the same way with God.
• JME: “You wrote to me: To pray is to talk with God. But about what?” About what? About him, and yourself: joys, sorrows, successes and failures, great ambitions, daily worries — even your weaknesses! And acts of thanksgiving and petitions — and love and reparation. In short, to get to know him and to get to know yourself — “to get acquainted.”
• Our conversation with God, from our end, can take the form of:
• Blessing, adoring and praising him, for who he is and what he has done
• Thanking God for his abundant gift, to us, to others, to the world.
• Begging for his forgiveness for our sins or the sins of others.
• Asking him for things we or others might need. This is called the prayer of petition or intercession.
• If our conversation with God is to be complete, we need to incorporate each of these elements in our prayer.
• When I start to pray, I “warm up” by
• praising God for who he is,
• thanking him for the gift of another day to learn better how to love him,
• begging for his forgiveness for all my sins, and then present him my needs and the needs of my people.
• CVT: “Your times of prayer are moments of intimacy with God, who is your Father. Prayer is not like writing an essay; it is a time for the heart, not hte head. Do not rack your brains or scratch your head over how you should address God.”
• The Catechism breaks down each of these categories into component parts, but we’ll keep the four traditional forms: praising God, thanking Him, asking for forgiveness and petitioning him.

• Blessing, adoration and praise
• Blessing, adoration and praise are all similar movements of the heart in relation to God.
• Blessing expresses basic movement of Christian prayer, an encounter between God and man.
• Prayer of blessing is man’s response to God’s gift.
• God’s gift and man’s acceptance are united in dialogue.
• There are two fundamental forms:
• We bless God for having blessed us (in the HS through Christ to the Father)
• God blesses us with grace of HS descending through Christ from the Father.
• We see an example of this type of prayer in the Divine Praises during Benediction: Blessed be God! Blessed be his holy name! etc.
• Adoration (worship) is first attitude of creature before Creator.
• It exalts greatness of Lord who made us and almighty power of savior.
• Adoration is homage to King of Glory.
• This adoration of thrice-holy God of love blends with humility.
• Very often this adoration is wordless. We can adore the Lord by our posture and gesticulations.
• Praise is the form of prayer that recognizes most immediately that God is God.
• It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, not just for what He does, but who He is.
• Prayer of praise is entirely disinterested and rises to God, lauds him, and gives him glory for his own sake, quite beyond what he has done, but simply because HE IS.
• Participates in prayer of pure of heart who love God in faith before seeing him in glory.
• HS helps us to praise God, to bear witness that we are his children.
• Praise embraces other forms of prayer and carries them to God.
• We see it often in St. Luke’s Gospel, when the people glorified God.
• Early Christians used psalms to praise God for mystery of Christ. They also composed new hymns in light of mind-blowing events of life of Christ.
• Doxology, this praise of God, arises from marvelous work of whole economy of salvation.
• Glory Be! Glory to God in the Highest!
• Book of Revelation is full of praise. The prophets, saints and martyrs all praise him who sits on the throne and of the lamb.
• Rev. 19:1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; he has judged the great whore who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 Once more they said, “Hallelujah! The smoke goes up from her forever and ever.” 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, and all who fear him, small and great.” 6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; 8 to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure” — for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
• Church also sings hymns of praise in midst of trial.
• Faith is purest of praise.

• Prayer of Thanskgiving
• As we discussed earlier, the prayers of Jesus recorded in the Gospel, always start with thanksgiving to God the Father. Ours should as well.
• Thanksgiving characterizes prayer of Church, which reveals itself in the Eucharist.
• The Eucharist contains and expresses all forms of prayer, but especially thanksgiving:
• it is “the pure offering” of the whole Body of Christ
• to the glory of God’s name
• and, according to the traditions of East and West, it is the “sacrifice of praise.”
• Thanksgiving of Church participates in Christ’s thanksgiving to the Father.
• Every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving.
• St. Paul: 1Ths. 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Col. 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.
• Every joy and suffering, every event and need can become the matter for thanksgiving which, sharing in that of Christ, should fill one’s whole life: “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess 5:18 ).

• Prayer for forgiveness
• First movement of prayer of petition is asking forgiveness, like publican in parable — “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
• This is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer along with trusting humility. It’s the prerequisite for both the Eucharist and for personal prayer.
• Unless we recognize we’re sinners, we can never appreciate a Savior.
• We have no right to be heard, but God always hears us in love.

• Prayer of Petition & Intercession
• This is when we ask God for what we need (prayer of petition proper) or for what others need (prayer of intercession).
• Sometimes this is the only way people pray. They come to the Lord with a laundry list of requests, but it’s only one of the four, and should remain only one of the four. Otherwise, we can forget that God is not just someone who’s there to carry out our wishes, but someone who deserves to be praised, loved, and served above all others.
• The vocabulary of supplication in NT is rich in shades of meaning: ask, beseech, plead, invoke, entreat, cry out.
• By prayer of petition, we express awareness of our relationship with God: we are not our own beginnings, not masters of adversity, not our own last end.
• Our petition is already a turning back to our Father from whom we’ve turned away previously.
• HS helps us with sighs too deep for words, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but HS intercedes for us (Rom 8:26).
• Christian petition is centered on desire and search for coming of Kingdom. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you besides.”
• There’s a hierachy in petitions:
1) for Kingdom
2) for what is necessary to welcome it and cooperate with its coming (mission of Christ, HS, and Church).
• We should always ask for the most important things, heaven, eternal life, forgiveness, God. Otherwise, it’s like asking Bill Gates for a dime.
• Every need can become the object of petition.
• Christ call us to make our petitions to the Father in his name, and he is glorified in this way.
• Prayer of intercession consists in asking on behalf of another. It knows no boundaries and extends to one’s enemies.
• This is prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did.
• Jesus is intercessor with the Father on behalf of men, especially sinners.
• “He always lives to make intercession for them.”
• HS intercedes for us.
• Since Abraham, intercession has been characteristic of heart attuned to God’s mercy.
• Christian intercession participates in Christ’s, as an expression of communio sanctorum.
• We look not only to our own interests, but to those of others, even to those who do us harm.
• Intercession of Christians knows no boundaries: Rom. 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rom. 10:1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.
• Just as for ourselves, we should pray for the biggest things for others, for God, heaven, eternal life, their salvation.
• So our conversations, to be full, should incorporate all four of these forms. Prayer is God’s way of forming us into whom he calls us to be, and prayer in each of these ways helps us to become that person.
• If we’re only praying for the things we want or need, we can become, in our relationship with God, spoiled brats or complainers.
• We need always to recognize that the Giver is so much more important than the gift. We need to be humble in our prayer, to realize that we’ve sinned against God, whom we should love above all things, and come to say sorry, receive his forgiveness, praise and thank him for his mercy, and for who he is.
•ˆThis retreat would be the proper time to begin to make sure our prayer with the Lord incorporates all four of these items. One of our times of prayer could be dedicated just to this.

• The fonts or wellsprings of prayer
• These describe where the material comes from for our prayer, the starting material for the nourishing meal that the Lord wants to prepare with us for us.
• We first need to state that HS is living water welling up to eternal life in heart that prays.
• Several fonts where Christ waits to enable us to drink of the HS:
• Word of God
• Church exhorts faithful to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus (Phil 3:8 ) by frequent reading of Sacred Scriptures.
• Prayer should always accompany reading of Sacred Scripture, so that dialogue takes place between God and man.
• Sacred Scripture helps us to “listen” to the word of God in our lives very concretely. As St. Ambrose said, “We speak to him when we pray; we listen to him when we read the divine oracles.”
• “Seek in reading and you will find in meditating; knock in mental prayer and it will be opened to you by contemplation.” (Guigo the Carthusian)
• Liturgy of the Church
• In liturgy, this mission of Christ and HS proclaims, makes present, and communicates mystery of salvation, which is continued in heart that prays.
• The liturgy, especially of Mass and the sacraments, should serve as a deep source of our prayer. How many times have you prayed the Mass, taken the prayers and made them your own? Or the baptismal rite? Or the rite of marriage? We can find so much nourishment there. Often I’ll give as a penance praying over one of the Eucharist prayers, so that people can see the connection between the sacraments much better; people come back to thank me later. This is to prevent it from coming routine.
• Prayer is called to internalize and assimilate the liturgy during and after its celebration.
• NMI: Learning this Trinitarian shape of Christian prayer and living it fully, above all in the liturgy, the summit and source of the Church’s life, but also in personal experience, is the secret of a truly vital Christianity, which has no reason to fear the future, because it returns continually to the sources and finds in them new life.
• CVT: “The pryaers of the liturgy are very pleasing to God because they come from the words of Scripture and the prayers of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. Use a missal, a book of the psalms, or a prayer book to help you to pray.”
• JME: “Your prayer ought to be liturgical. Would that you were given to reciting the psalms and prayers of the missal instead of private or special prayers!”
• Spiritual writers compare the heart to an altar. We’re called to unite our own prayer to that of the Church as a whole, as we do in the liturgy.
• Even secret prayer is always prayer of the Church, a communion with the Holy Trinity.
• The theological virtues
• Our prayer is nourished by our life, especially the life of grace, when we allow Christ, the light of the world to live in us.”
• St. Paul said, showing the culmination of this type of life, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
• Our prayer influences our life and our life influences our prayer. Our faith, hope and love influence our prayer.
• There are historically three virtues that are called theological, because they concern our relationship with God, who is “theos” in Greek: Faith, hope and love.
• Faith: We enter into prayer through narrow gate of faith. We seek the face of the Lord and want to hear and keep his word.
• Hope: HS teaches us to pray in hope for the Lord’s return. Prayer of Church and personal prayer nourish hope. Psalms help us to wait patiently for the Lord, who will stoop and hear our cry.
• Love: prayer, formed by liturgical life, draws everything into God’s love for us and enables us to love him.
• Love is the source of prayer; prayer is saying “I love you.” Cure D’Ars: “My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat it to you as often as I draw breath.”
• “Today”
• The raw material for our prayer comes not just from Sacred Scripture, God’s continuing action in the world through the Liturgy, our seeking the Lord through the virtues of faith, hope, and love, but in all the events that occur during the day, for the Lord is the Lord of history.
• Nothing is a coincidence.
• We encounter Father in the present, not yesterday, not tomorrow.
• HS is offered us at all times, in events of each day, to make prayer spring up from us.
• Matt. 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread.
• Matt. 6:34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
• “O that today you would hearken to his voice! Harden not your hearts.” (Ps 95)
• Prayer in events of each day and each moment is one of the secrets of kingdom revealed to little children.
• It is right and good to pray coming out of all situations and bringing prayer into everyday, humble situations.
• All forms of prayer can be the leaven to which the Lord compares the kingdom.
• St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times. That is done only if we everything of the day becomes a source of conversation with the Lord, in which we continue our dialogue with him, praising him, thanking him, begging forgiveness, asking him for what we and others need.
• If we learn to do this, everyone we meet, everything that we encounter, can become an opportunity for our prayer with the Lord.
• This is the way we will learn to pray always, not because we’re spending all day in Church, but because we’re recognizing God’s presence, and continuing that conversation with the one we love all day long.