Praying From The Heart
As Christians, we are all called to pray
and we are drawn by the deep yearning for
God engrained in our hearts. What is the
proper way to pray? In the Gospels, Jesus
provides us with many important lessons on
how to pray.
In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches us to have the
proper disposition when we pray. We are not
to pray for outward appearance, but inwardly
from the heart. Those who pray for the sake
of exercising their religious custom in a
public assembly have received their reward.
To pray inwardly from the heart is to open
our innermost being to the Lord, in secret,
in the sanctified interior space which the
Spirit prepares within us. If we pray in
this way, Jesus assures us that "your
Father who sees in secret will repay you."
In the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector,
Jesus teaches us the importance of humility
in prayer - to know our place before God
in the light of His truth. The one who prays
from the disposition of pride will not be
heard; but the Lord will hear the one who,
with a humble heart, prays the words of the
tax collector: "O God, be merciful to
me a sinner." (Luke 18.13) St Teresa
of Jesus underscored the importance of this
teaching when she wrote: "Humility is
the principal virtue which must be practiced
by those who pray." (Way of Perfection,
Faith is the foundation of effective prayer.
If we pray with unwavering faith, the power
of God will be exercised in ways well beyond
the limits of our own fragile capabilities.
Jesus said to his disciples: "Amen,
I say to you, if you have faith and do not
waver, … whatever you ask for in prayer with
faith, you will receive." (Matthew 21.21-22)
Elsewhere, He advises: "All that you
ask for in prayer, believe that you will
receive it and it shall be yours." The
power of faith is unlimited - Jesus emphasizes
that "everything is possible to one
who has faith." (Mark 9.23) The power
of faith is multiplied when we pray together
with one another, for He Himself joins us
in our prayer. (see Matthew 18.19-20)
From the parable of the unjust judge and
the persistent widow (Luke 18.1-8), Jesus
teaches us to be persistent in prayer - "to
pray always without becoming weary."
(Luke 18.1). If, by dogged persistence, we
are able to persuade others to do what is
right, even if they lack a sense of righteousness,
how much more we can be certain that God
who is Righteousness will answer our prayer
Jesus emphasizes the importance of being
vigilant in prayer. On entering the garden
of Gethsemane, He advised His disciples to
"Watch and pray that you may not undergo
the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh
is weak." (Mark 14.38) St Peter also
advises us to be vigilant, for our "opponent,
the devil, is prowling around like a roaring
lion looking for (someone) to devour."
(1 Peter 5.8) If we strive to be vigilant
in our prayer, it is like having a guard
on the watchtower of the soul, scanning the
horizon for any sign of an enemy attack.
Vigilance in prayer enables us to safeguard
the virtues and holiness which God has entrusted
to us by helping us to be wary of temptations,
our own weak tendencies to sin, and occasions
of sin. With vigilance, we are also more
attuned to God's hand in the events of our
lives, so that we are able to more readily
respond to the movements of the Spirit as
Prayer is the means to exercise our faith,
and prayer is the place from which we are
able to serve the Lord most effectively.
This poem describes the proper disposition
for effective prayer.
Prayers of the Heart
The prayers that arise from the heart,
With trust the Father knows our needs
And faith that thanks Him from the
Bears fruit like trees from mustard
The way is sought with vigilance,
In truth, the humble soul remains;
His life flows with true persistence
His grace, by faith, the heart obtains.
By faith, we draw down His mercy,
We join our hearts with Him in prayer;
He knows our needs and hears our plea
In His mercy and grace we share.
We trust the Lord will hear our call;
With faith in prayer, we can move all.
Holy Spirit, teach us to pray
With humble hearts, true persistence,
And faith, trusting the Father's way-
To follow Him with vigilance. Amen.
St Teresa Of Jesus, The Way of Perfection
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs
2607 - 2616, 2650-2652, 2656, 2730, 2732,
(c) Paul Buis, 2005