Fr. Peter J. Daly
January 6, 2004
One of the most important jobs of the parish church is to be a “school of prayer.”
We teach people how to pray and what to pray for, both by word and by example.
The liturgy is the principal school of prayer. There we make the Lord present in word and sacrament.
But other “prayer clinics” include devotions like Eucharistic Adoration, Stations of the Cross, novenas, retreats, rosary, and meditation and prayer groups. Nothing is more central to our life than prayer.
Among the first things Jesus did with His disciples was teach them to pray. He told them not to rattle on like the pagans who went into endless ecstatic prayer rituals. But he also told them to be persistent in prayer and to pray always without losing heart.
Most importantly, Jesus taught His followers the words of a prayer so we could pray when we could find no other words. His prayer is a kind of short course in prayer. It is a summation of all our prayers.
There have been many famous teachers of prayer in our Christian tradition. People like St. Theresa of Avila, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Ignatius of Loyola who taught their followers to pray.
This past Christmas our parish distributed a little prayer book from Liguori Press as a gift to everyone. It is called a “Treasury of Prayers.” It contains all the basic Catholic prayers, plus a few unusual ones I had not seen before.
I particularly liked one prayer entitled “Mary Stewart’s Prayer.” I’m not sure who Mary Stewart was, but she wrote a good prayer.
I read it to our people at mass a couple of weeks before Christmas, as a prayer for our families. It goes:
“Keep us, O God, from all pettiness.
Let us be large in thought, word, and deed.
Let us be done with fault-finding and leave off all self-seeking.
May we put away all pretense, and meet each other face to face, without self-pity and without prejudice.
May we never be hasty in judgment, and always be generous.
Let us always take time for all things, and make us grow calm, serene and gentle.
Teach us to put into action our better impulses, to be straightforward and unafraid.
Grant that we may realize that it is the little things of life that create the differences, but in the big things of life, we are as one.
And Lord God, let us not forget to be kind! Amen. “
When I read that prayer to our parish, I heard a little inward taking of breath at the end when she says, “let us not forget to be kind.” Every family has said unkind words.
Heart felt prayer brings our real self before God. It expresses our needs, our thanks, our fears, our failings and hopes. Sometimes it even expresses our humor.
One of my favorite prayers makes me laugh. I have it taped to the mirror in my bedroom. It goes:
“Dear Lord, So far today I’ve done OK. Actually I’ve been rather good. I haven’t gossiped or lost my temper. I haven’t been greedy, grumpy, pouty, or whiney. Nor have I been selfish, unpleasant or overindulgent. Lord I would like to say that I am thankful for all that. But God, in a few minutes, I’m going to get out of bed. … From then on, I’m going to need a lot more help. Amen.”
Maybe some of our prayers not only make us laugh, but make God laugh.