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

prepared by:

Paul Buis

(c) Paul Buis, 2005