Why we should pray
In this third article in a series on Prayer we remember the words of Saint Augustine, ‘Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new’. Our first Nations peoples have been in touch with this ‘beauty’ for around 60,000 years.
I wrote in the last Majellan about Dardirri and the ability of indigenous Australians to listen to God in the rhythms of nature. It is the sound, the sound of deep calling to deep. Dadirri is the deep inner spring inside us. We call on it and it calls on us.
One might imagine it was this type of listening that drew Jesus into prayer: Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35).
Pope Francis has invited us to say this prayer:
All powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us your love, that we may protect life and beauty…
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognise that we are profoundly united with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
Pope Francis introduces here two words that might not normally be associated with prayer, Awe and Contemplation. These words do not fit easily into our busy life and yet they are at the heart of prayer. The sound of deep calling on deep.
Prayer is our ability to rest in God. ‘Resting’ is at the heart of Prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Come to me all you who labour … I will give you rest and you will find rest for your soul (Matthew 11: 28). And, of course, we speak of and pray for Eternal Rest.
All powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
To sit (rest) with this verse opens us to ‘awe’ and ‘contemplation’ but how to rest and how to be present to this kind of prayer in this kind of universe? We scarcely have time to sit; let alone rest; and even as I ponder this amazing verse my thoughts quickly go elsewhere. So, what is prayer and how do I pray?
In this series on prayer, I hope to answer some of these questions. For three years, Pope Francis in his weekly audience spoke about prayer. On at least thirty-eight occasions, in fact. He was told that he speaks too much about prayer and that it was not necessary!
In his weekly audience on November 12, 2020, Pope Francis replied, “It is necessary! because if we do not pray, we will not have the strength to go forward in life. Prayer is like the oxygen of life; prayer draws upon us the Holy Spirit who always carries us forward. That is why I speak so much about prayer.”
While our First Peoples practice ‘Dardirri’- the deep inner spring inside us. We call on it and it calls on us; around our world, prayer in its many forms rises like incense (Psalm 141) from all the religions of the world.
Pope Francis continued the practice of the World Day of Prayer started by Pope John Paul II and continued by Pope Benedict and invited Leaders and representatives of the world’s religions to a time of prayer. Joining Pope Francis are representatives from the non-Christian religions – Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, African and North American animism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, and Baha’i. The world’s different religions are a reminder that prayer still holds an important place in people’s lives.
Mosques and Temples are now fixtures in our nation’s cities and towns and a reminder of the place of prayer in many people’s lives. As a nation, we are slowly becoming aware of the way of prayer in other cultures and religions. For the Moslem world, prayer times are set aside at five different times each day.
Catholics may recall the importance when they were growing up of a ‘morning offering’ and a ‘night prayer’ and the daily rosary. Prayer is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and serves the purpose of purifying the heart and providing communication with Allah.
In many monasteries, monks and nuns are called to prayer seven times a day and the Church has adopted this practice in what is known as the Divine Office.
A modern Catholic mystic, a Carmelite nun, Jessica Powers hailed as one of America’s greatest religious poets wrote:
Prayer is a mystic entering in
to secret places full of light.
It is a passage through the night.
Heaven is reached, the blessed say,
by prayer and by no other way.
While we will go deeper into these many ways of prayer, let us begin with what we know. Do we and can we give Prayer a place in our daily routine? Could we re-approach the Rosary in a new way, seeing it as a mystic entering in … to places full of light.
The Rosary consists of mysteries – joyful, sorrowful glorious and the mysteries of light. We recite very biblical prayers. The Our Father – taught by Jesus; the Hail Mary – words from the Gospel of Luke and finally an acknowledgment of the mystery of the Trinity. Perhaps that is just the right Prayer to end this reflection:
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
As it was, in the beginning, is now and ever will be, Amen.
Image: The closing ceremony of the World Day of Prayer in Assisi, Italy.
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