Often when people think of praying, their mind automatically goes to prayers that they memorized as a child, such as the Our Father, Hail Mary, Rosary, etc. These traditional, formal prayers are certainly a wonderful way to pray and deepen our relationship with God, but they are only one of many ways to encounter God. There are many forms of prayer that you may not recognize as prayer. For example, Standing on the beach looking out at the immense power and beauty of the ocean, overcome in awe and wonder at God’s creation – this is prayer.
Waiting at the bedside of a dying loved one; being present to them with a desire to bring them peace and let them know how much they are loved is a form of prayer.
Saint Therese of Lisieux said that for her prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look toward heaven. God comes to us in a myriad of ways because God cannot be limited. It is up to us to become aware of God’s presence.
I love the picture of the renowned painter Jean-Francois Millet’s painting of the Angelus, where two farmers are bowing their heads in prayer at the ringing of the Angelus prayer. It is a reminder to me to stop and recall God’s presence.
At times we can simply sit with God in silence. There was an older gentleman who came to church each day and sat in the pew for a while. Out of curiosity, the priest asked him what he prayed for each day. The man answered, “I simply look at God in the tabernacle, and God looks at me. This is a beautiful, contemplative form of prayer. We don’t always need to be talking at God. Sometimes people have lots of things they want to pray for, but they never take the time to actually sit and quietly listen to what God has to say.
Pope John XXIII, who is one of my favorite popes, after a long day of papal duties, simply prayed, “I’m tired, and I’m going to bed. It’s your church. Take care of it.”
To let go and truly put things in God’s hands is often not an easy thing to do. We often tell God that we are putting this person or situation in God’s hands, then go on continuing to worry and fret. What a feeling of relief when we can truly trust and put it in God’s hands.
There are many ways to pray. The important thing is to actually take the time to do it in whatever way you choose.
Questions for reflection:
What is your favorite way to pray?
Can you remember a time when you were just awe struck by something in nature or the beauty of something, and lifted up your heart to God in grateful praise?
What helps you to call to mind God’s presence?
Linda Soltis, SCN, resides at Nazareth Motherhouse Campus and is coordinator of donor relations for the Office of Mission Advancement.