Actually, the Catechism has a section titled The Battle of Prayer. We have God the Holy Spirit and Michael the Archangel to help us. Here’s a perspective of pilgrimage: ever since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, humanity has been on a pilgrimage. Pereginus (from the Latin) is one who comes from afar through land to an end or destination. Humanity has been journeying toward the house of God, toward Heaven, ever since Adam and Eve. Our journey and order and way to God is prayer. The land we journey through is earth, the material and seen world. Prayer, along with creation, should order us and guide us to our end, goal, and home.
Think of a triangle with three points: (1) Salvation is our end and goal and purpose, (2) Prayer is necessary for Salvation (Question 1104 of the Baltimore Catechism), and (3) Knowing God is the experience of eternal life (Jn 17:3).
With that in mind, it follows that we should pray.
How to Pray: For those of us who want steps on “how-to-pray,” here you are:
Stop what you are doing, who you are thinking about. Come to yourself. Be at peace and stop moving away from yourself and from God. Be still and at peace with yourself. This may be the hardest one for many of us. It is difficult to slow down, quiet down, and stop.
Look. Here’s a bad analogy: Imagine yourself in a library, coffee shop, or other public place. You notice some stranger giving you a creepy stare. You look away but the stranger is still staring. You wonder, “Should I return the creepy stare or move?” God gives you that same stare. Let’s contrast that, though. He is not a stranger who stares creepily; he is our Father who gazes lovingly. Therefore, when we “look,” it is more accurate to say we notice his loving gaze and are invited to return it by “looking.” We return the loving gaze He has for us.
Listen. Is listening passive osmosis? No! Listening is active receiving. College students address professors as “Doctor.” Doctor means Teacher, from a Latin word docere. If I listen, I am available and teachable and ready to receive. When I am docile to the Holy Spirit, to the will of God, I am available and teachable. I must stop in order to look. I must look in order to listen. There are three steps, taken from Peter Kreeft’s “Prayer for Beginners.”
What happens when we pray? In John 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life.” The context of that verse is beautiful! Do some reading and praying with that passage. Here’s a little quote to relate it to prayer: Prayer taps into the life of God; the life of God gives us the light of the world. We receive life when we pray!
When do I pray? In Mark 1:35 we see this: “And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.” Uh-oh. Here’s the early morning discipline plug. Jesus did it, we can too. It is summer isn’t it? It is the perfect time to pray in the morning. Not at 11:30am, but before the day, a great while before the day. In summer the sun rises before 7am, and Jesus was up a great while before then. Here’s something else: He didn’t just throw off the covers and mutter a “Glory Be,” he rose and he went out. What happened after that? He didn’t distract himself with traffic or the bus ride or car ride to campus or work, he went to a lonely place, and there he prayed. We are to do the same.
The times I have done this, it’s like being on a retreat. It’s like experiencing the pilgrimage. It’s like waking up with creation. It’s beautiful, refreshing, and so often even breath-taking.
What do I do in prayer? When I am honest and vulnerable with God, I have peace with Him and then myself. I can accept myself as I am because God does. God teaches me how to love Him, myself, and others. Further, I have peace with others. Therefore, I can honestly and purely ask forgiveness and forgive, because I have first asked and received from God and reconciled with Him and myself.
Finally, ask God, the Holy Spirit. He teaches us for we know not how to pray. Chapter 8 of Romans is a great take away and homework assignment. Let us continue our journey.