A beginner's guide to prayer.
Prayer isn’t always easy to learn and often converts to the Catholic faith are never taught what prayer is or even the basic mechanics of prayer. This can leave a person confused, searching the internet or the local bookstore for helpful aids on the topic.
The good news is that prayer doesn’t have to be this hard. In fact, prayer is surprisingly easy to master for those with an open heart.
First of all, the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines prayer as “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God” (CCC 2559).
What does this mean?
Simply put, every time we think of God, we are praying. This could be a joyous and thankful thought or even an angry thought. Sometimes we may express these thoughts out loud, but often they remain on the inside.
Prayer is essentially a dialogue with God, though often we don’t notice God’s responses. We can speak to him using any words, as long as they are honest and sincere. This could be in the form of a memorized prayer or one that we ourselves compose. However we pray, God desires truth and authenticity above all things.
Furthermore, we can pray to God to request “good things.” This may include the healing of a friend, the finding of a house, or the end of violence. The only thing we should not pray for is something bad, like seeking revenge or the concealment of a particular sin. God always answers our prayers and grant them, though not always in the manner that we expected. He knows us better than we know ourselves, so he gives to us what we need, which isn’t always what we want.
The essential key to leading a fruitful prayer life is humility.
As the Catechism points out, “He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that ‘we do not know how to pray as we ought,’ are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. ‘Man is a beggar before God'” (CCC 2559).
In the end, if you don’t know how to pray, ask God for help. He will guide in how to pray with your whole heart and mind. Whatever you do, don’t wait until tomorrow — or when you “feel” holy — to pray. Pray right now, expressing to God your honest feelings, hopes and anxieties. God wants to be with you in every circumstance, and prayer is the channel that allows him to have a greater presence in your life.