Lord, Teach Us To Pray
Each of us is at a different place in our
life journeys of faith and each of us has
had a different experience of prayer along
the way. For most of us, at some point, questions
have surfaced: 'What is prayer?' and 'Why
should I pray?'
St. Thérèse of Lisieux expressed her answer
as: "With me prayer is an uplifting
of the heart; a glance towards heaven; a
cry of gratitude and love, uttered equally
in sorrow and in joy. In a word, it is something
noble, supernatural, which expands my soul
and unites it to God." (Story of a Soul
A.10) For each of us, the answer is a little
different and, in some ways, as unique as
we are. For all of us though, prayer is our
expression to God of how we relate to Him
from where we are in our faith journey.
"He was praying in a certain place,
and when he had finished, one of his disciples
said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray…'"
(Luke 11.1) At times, we too find ourselves
making this same request, either out of the
frustration of feeling our prayers were not
heard or just out of a general feeling of
spiritual dryness. We need to take to heart
that God never abandons us nor does He ignore
what we ask of Him. Often these problems
arise from our own limitations and lack of
understanding of our present situation. In
accepting our own limitations and offering
them up to God with this request, "Lord,
teach us to pray", we begin to open
up our hearts to the assistance of the Holy
Spirit in our prayer.
To begin to pray alongside the Holy Spirit
requires a degree of trust on our part. It
is important to realize that our God is a
loving Father who wants only the best for
each of us. He knows us better than we know
ourselves, and Jesus taught us that "it
is not the will of your heavenly Father that
one of these little ones be lost." (Matthew
18.14) God knows our needs and our prayers
intimately, as the psalmist wrote: "Even
before a word is on my tongue, Lord, you
know it all." (Psalm 139.4)
If God wants the best for us, and knows what
we need before we ask Him, then why should
we pray? It is important to consider that
God is our Creator, that He created us out
of love, and that He waits longingly for
us to come home to Him, like the father in
the parable of the prodigal son: "So
he got up and went back to his father. While
he was still a long way off, his father caught
sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed
him." (Luke 15.10) Each of us was created
with this same longing to return home to
Him deep in our hearts. Often we have tried
in vain to cover up this longing with various
empty pursuits and distractions, but deep
down, the longing for God still remained.
Only God's love can fill this void. Prayer
is the means by which we can return home
to our loving Father. He is waiting patiently
for us to get up from where we are and to
begin the journey back to Him.
The Father has given us the tremendous gift
of His Son to be our teacher and guide in
this journey to Him. It is through Jesus
that we are able to be reconciled with the
Father and respond and relate to Him Who
is all perfect. It is Jesus who teaches us
how to pray. It is in Jesus that our relationship
with God grows ever stronger and deeper.
Through Jesus, the Father has given us the
gift of the Holy Spirit to accompany us in
our prayer. The Holy Spirit is symbolized
as the breath of God. Just as the breath
of the Spirit is born of the relationship
between the Father and Son, so too, the breath
of our prayer is born of the relationship
between God and our soul. Through the grace
of the Holy Spirit, our prayer can be joined
with His in a deep and intimate way, drawing
us ever further into the mystery of God.
This poem expresses our need to pray which
arises out of the deeply set yearning to
know God's love.
The Sojourn of Prayer
Within each heart, a deep yearning
Aches for God like a cry unheard;
Beginning with its own turning,
The heart responds as it is stirred.
The Father yearns for each child:
To come home to Him and to stay;
To revel in His love, beguiled -
This deep yearning He will allay.
Through prayer, each child can respond
Unto the Father's love outpoured;
To grow in friendship and beyond -
And humbly walk home with the Lord.
It is by prayer the Lord can lead
Each of us each day we sojourn;
He knows our hearts and ev'ry need
In Him, by grace we are reborn.
His Spirit leads us as we pray;
His Son walks with us all the way.
Holy Spirit, teach us to pray:
Tune our hearts to our deep yearning,
That we may turn back home today
To Father whose love is burning. Amen.
St Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of A Soul
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs
2559 - 2567, 2725-2727
(c) Paul Buis, 2005