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There's More to Prayer Than "Saying Our Prayers" | Mary
A warm, loving environment can teach us a lot about a warm, loving
I always thought I was a bad pray-er.
It wasnt that I didnt want to pray. It was just that I never
thought I was any good at it. My attention wandered. My brain jumped from
subject to subject. I would try to meditate, but it never lasted long. ("The
Annunciation. Where was Mary? What was she wearing? What am I going to wear
. . .")
I suspect I wasnt alone in this. (Please tell me I wasnt alone
in this!) When were kids, we learn to "say our prayers."
We dutifully recite our "Our Fathers" and "Hail Marys,"
but we never really learn to go deeper. Then we read about the saints and
their other-worldly prayer experiences, and we figure we must just be missing
the "prayer gene" required to reach such heights of contemplation.
I think were wrong.
My prayer life began to turn around when a spiritual director told me he
wanted me to sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament for 15 minutes
a day. "I dont care what you dojust be there."
Well, if youre going to sit and stare at Someone, you might just as
well talk to Him.
And so I did. I told Him about my day. I asked Him questions. I wrote in
a prayer journal, sorting out my thoughts and feelings. I read Scripture
passages. I read Magnificat.
And, of course, my mind wandered. Talking to God about my day would morph
into planning my day. But at least I was planning it in the presence of
Christ. And somehow, knowing that He was physically present in the Eucharist,
my thoughts didnt wander as far.
At first, I didnt see a big difference in my everyday life. I still
struggled with the same struggles. But over time, I noticed subtle changes.
I found myself craving that time with Christ. If I was depressed or confused
or struggling, I was drawn to the Blessed Sacrament chapel. Issues I didnt
believe I could face alone somehow felt more manageable in His presence.
Sometimes, I actually felt better when I left. And even when I didnt,
I knew in my head that the Lord of all creation, who loves me madly, had
the situation in His hands.
I found that I experienced His presence in a particularly profound way when
I would make an act of trust in Him. Just saying "I have no idea whats
going to happen here, Lord, but I trust you" brought me a level of
peace that, well, "surpassed all human understanding."
So why am I telling you all of this? Just to "share" about my
spiritual life? No. Im telling you because the lessons I learned about
prayer as an adult are lessons that all of usadults and childrencould
take to heart.
First of all, Im a big fan of the "15 minutes in His presenceno
matter what" system. We dont have to think about the sun to absorb
its rays. I believe that the same thing is true of the Son. Placing ourselves
physically in His presence changes useven if were unaware of
the change. Plus, once were there, its easier to stay focused
on Him than it is at home or driving down the highway. I know 15 minutes
may not seem like a lot. But thats the beauty of it. Its long
enough to have a lovely conversation, but not so long that it becomes overly
difficult to fit into the day. And once you get the hang of it, youll
find there are days when 45 minutes fly by before you even notice the time.
Second, I think we need to teach children to pray this way. They obviously
cant get themselves to the Blessed Sacrament chapel, but a special
place in the house could serve the same purpose. A picture of Jesus, surrounded
by candles (lit by grownups and high enough to be out of reach of little
hands, of course) would make a lovely setting to introduce little ones to
God. The kids could kneel in front of the picture to "say their prayers."
But that shouldnt be the end of it.
Keep a big, comfortable chair nearby. Snuggle with your child in the chair.
And then, by the candlelight, talk to Jesus together. Tell him you love
Him. Prompt your child to tell Jesus hes sorry for whatever infractions
hes committed that day. Pray for loved ones. Ask for help and guidance.
In that warm environment, safely wrapped in the arms of a loving parent,
a child will learn volumes about a loving God.
And about prayer.
(This article was originally published on September 26, 2005 on www.RealLove.net.)
Ignatius Press books by Mary Beth Bonacci:
Beth Bonacci is internationally known for her talks and writings
about love, chastity, and sexuality. Since 1986 she has spoken to tens of
thousands of young people, including 75,000 people in 1993 at World Youth
Day in Denver, Colorado. She appears frequently on radio and television
programs, including several appearances on MTV.
Mary Beth has written two books, We're
on a Mission from God and Real
Love, and also writes a regular, syndicated column for various publications.
She has developed numerous videos, including her brand-newest video series,
also entitled Real Love. Her video Sex
and Love: What's a Teenager to Do? was awarded the 1996 Crown Award
for Best Youth Curriculum.
Mary Beth holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Communication from
the University of San Francisco, and a master's degree in Theology of Marriage
and Family from the John Paul II Institute at Lateran University. She was
also awarded an honorary doctorate in Communications from the Franciscan
University of Steubenville, and is listed in Outstanding Young Women
of America for 1997.
Visit Mary Beth and Real Love Incorporated online here.
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