Advent Apologetics: How Can I Learn to Pray Better?

Here are four ways we can pray better:

1) We can pray as Jesus and His saints have taught us (Luke 11:1-4); that is, we can take as our instructions in prayer the words and example of Jesus and the saints.

2) We can pray with more perseverance (Luke 11:5-8), not giving up when it is difficult.

3) We can pray with more confidence in God’s goodness (Luke 11:9-13).

4) We can pray with greater fervor (1 Sam. 1; Dan. 10).

“Lord, teach us to pray” This is the simple prayer uttered by Jesus’ disciples. And this “prayer about prayer” had a very fruitful answer down to this very hour. Indeed, this little request made to the Savior shows us the power of prayer, even the simplest and shortest. All Christians have received the benefit of Jesus’ answer to this prayer.

In prayer, the first teacher is our experience based on sincere effort and devotion. But along with this it is necessary to be instructed in prayer. The Church’s tradition of prayer is so rich and varied, and so complete, that we really need to become acquainted with the work of prayer as found in Sacred Scripture, the teachings of the Church’s Magisterium, and the writings of the saints and other classic spiritual writers.

First, we might read the fourth part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, whether in its full form or in its abbreviated Compendium. This latter has a handy appendix of the most important Catholic prayers.

The value of these two catechetical works is found in their special authority as documents of the universal Magisterium of the holy father. St. John Paul II emphasized the authoritative value of the Catechism, and it presents to us the most complete treatment of prayer in the millennia of the history of the Church of the Old and New Testaments.

The so-called Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent is also of high authority, as John Paul pointed out in promulgating the new one. It was published in the 1600s and offers a lovely treatment of prayer and an interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, which, as in its contemporary companion, is found in the fourth part of this venerable work (which is easily available online).

There are many writings of the saints on prayer, and the Catechism’s treatment of prayer gives us so many suggestions among them. One wonderful and brief work is Alphonsus Ligouri’s How to Converse with God along with his Treatise on Mental Prayer. His Visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary gives us a supreme example of how meditation on the mysteries of faith can nourish our life of prayer.

All of these works are easily available in print and in electronic editions.

Then to sum up, there is the very useful and well-composed Handbook of Prayers edited by Fr. James Socias. This is an invaluable book with all the best examples of Catholic devotion.

In addition, it is hoped that the present work will provide some ready-at-hand help!

We would do well, however, not to neglect the practice of prayer as a way to become wiser in the ways of prayer. The mother of God has come repeatedly to earth to inspire us to pray the holy rosary. This prayer is a true school of conversation with the Lord and it will teach us best about how to pray. If we are faithful to Mary’s rosary, we will surely prosper in our conversation with the Lord even without study or reading.

Jesus tells us that we often treat our Father in heaven as worse than an unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8), or worse than a bad human father (Luke 11:9-13). Our Father deserves more confidence from us! So often our response to darkness in prayer is determined by our disposition toward God. If a husband comes home late from work, the suspicious wife may think, “He’s out at the bar or out with another woman” while the trustful wife will think, “He’s getting me flowers, or planning a surprise.” If we do not feel God’s presence during prayer, we can either respond like the suspicious spouse or the trustful spouse.

When all is said and done, when we want to pray better we should do what the disciples of the Lord did and simply ask him, “Lord, teach me to pray!” That will be a prayer he will surely hear and favor with many graces. Nothing is better for our prayer than to fly to the sources of prayer, to the hearts of Jesus and Mary and the company of the wise practitioners of prayer: the saints of God who pray for us without ceasing! From 20 Answers: Prayer

Dec 14th 2020 Catholic Answers

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