“Pray without ceasing.”

1 Thess. 5:18

I have always felt, as a parent and as a catechist, that teaching prayers is much easier than teaching someone to pray.  On one hand, the development of a relationship between two people is not something we often think about teaching.  Rather, it is something we perceive as happening organically.  Secondly, developing a personal relationship with God has some unique challenges.  Prayer is simply a conversation with a person; a sharing of our thoughts, feelings and experiences with another.  But it doesn’t seem as easy as other conversations sometimes.  One young adult recently shared with me, “Honestly, it is a struggle for me to figure out how to talk to and listen to someone I can’t see, touch or hear.”  So this can be a hurdle, a roadblock for us.  That is why it becomes important for parents, catechists and pastors to make concerted efforts to teach others how to pray. In the Characteristics of a Stewardship Parish we read, “our parish offers regular and consistent instruction/encouragement and experiences in personal prayer.”

That is why I was so intrigued when I had the opportunity to hear Fr. Scott Woods of the Archdiocese of Washington DC speak in August.  Fr. Woods was here to lead our seminarian retreat, but he took a morning to share with us the wonderful success he and a teacher at the local Catholic high school have had in leading students into a strong and personal relationship with Christ.  You can read about their success in an NCR article linked at the bottom of this email.  While Fr. Woods was in town, he graciously agreed to record how he encourages students who do not have a regular and consistent personal prayer life to begin.  I am glad to offer his insights as part of the many resources we are developing to assist parishes and individuals who desire to pursue “A Catholic Way of Life”:

This we can be certain of:  Jesus desires to have a deep and personal relationship with each one of us.  And Jesus is God; all-powerful and all-knowing.  There is nothing He cannot do.  This means that a deep prayer life is possible for every one of us.  In fact, the Catechism reminds us that “It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink.  Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us.  Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours.  God thirsts that we may thirst for him.” (CCC2560)

The Catechism goes on to say, “Prayer in the events of each day and each moment is one of the secrets of the kingdom revealed to ‘little children'”  and “the tradition of the Church proposes to the faithful certain rhythms of praying intended to nourish continual prayer”  because “prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part.” (CCC 2659, 2698 & 2725)

Fr. Scott offers a simple, yet life-changing “plan of life”.  I think he offers a realistic and powerful way for a “determined response on our part,” a way to develop a rhythm of prayer that can lead to “praying always.”  I hope you find it helpful, both in your own journey and in your efforts to lead others to Christ.

How Spiritual Direction Transformed a Catholic High School


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