Prayer For Christian Youth to Grow in Grace
How to Grow Your Faith: 8 Powerful Ideas!
Do you ever wish you had a stronger faith or a closer relationship with God?
I do — all the time!
And it’s nothing new…
I can still distinctly remember being in high school, seeing older Christian women who seemed SUCH good Christians — perfect Proverbs 31 women who had it all together spiritually-speaking.
They trusted, they gave, they spoke with grace, they did the right thing even when it was hard…
I wished my life could be more that, but I didn’t know how.
I wanted to learn how to be a godly woman and how to grow in faith, but I didn’t know where to start.
It all just seemed a little too reach.
Maybe they were just lucky enough to be born that way. Maybe a strong faith just came easy for them. Maybe they had something that I didn’t. Maybe their lives were just easy, and they never had any real problems…
Can I let you in on a little secret I’ve learned along the way in the 15-20 years since then? None of those “maybes” are true.
“Good Christians” aren’t born that way. And a strong faith doesn’t “just happen.”
Just good marriages don’t “just happen” and good kids don’t “just happen,” if you want to grow your faith, you have to work at it.
It really just comes down to taking little baby steps every single day — even when it’s hard, even when you don’t feel it — that all add up to a strong faith over time.
Ready to learn how to grow your faith this year? Here are 8 powerful ways to do just that!
*This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps cover the many costs of running this site and allows me to help provide for my growing family. Thank you!Want to learn how to grow in faith this year? Here’s your roadmap and your challenge:
Below you’ll find 8 of the most powerful things you can do to grow your faith this year, listed from easiest to hardest. PICK ONE to start. When you have a good handle on that one, move on to the next.
(Try to do too many at once and you’re far less ly to actually follow through with any of them.)
Write it down. Work on it. Make growing in faith your Christian New Year’s Resolution this year. And just see how much you’ll grow in faith as a result!
1. Get in the Daily Bible Reading Habit
Ready to grow in faith this year? The very FIRST thing I’d recommend you do this year is to get in the habit of daily Bible reading.
Now, this doesn’t have to be every single day and you don’t have to read a huge chunk at a time, but you should be reading often enough that it’s an important and influential part of your routine.
I challenged myself to get in the habit of reading my Bible regularly last year, and it has made a BIG difference for me. And I know it will for you too!
There are tons of Free Bible Study apps you can use to help you get in the habit of daily Bible reading OR…
How to Get Started: Grab Your Quiet Time Planning Guide
This super simple guide will help you:
- Determine what the ideal quiet time looks for you
- Stay focused during your quiet times
- Hold yourself accountable
- Experience real spiritual growth
And it’s free!
Just let me know where to send it:
2. Surround Yourself with Christian Community
Once you decide that you’re ready to get serious about growing in faith this year, the next thing you’ll want to do is to surround yourself with other Christians who feel the same way.
Now, this doesn’t mean that every single friend of yours must also be a strong Christian. But if you really want to learn how to grow your faith, surrounding yourself with other strong Christians is SO helpful.
Not only will the encourage you, inspire you, and call you out as needed. But just by simply being around them, it will naturally change what you consider “normal” and what you focus on.
This makes learning how to grow your faith SO much easier!
How to Get Started: Get Connected!
- First, check out this post for some great ideas on meeting more Christian friends in real life: 6 Ways to Find More Christian Friends
- Then, be sure to join our email community if you haven’t already.
We may not be in-real-life friends, but I’ll absolutely be that big sister in faith who will walk beside you, encourage you, help you and challenge you on a regular basis.
Sign up below:
**Related: 10 Awesome Websites for Christian Women (You’ll Love These!)
3. Start Eliminating Sins and Bad Habits
Now, if you’re already reading your Bible regularly and you have at least a couple good, Godly friends, you’re off to a great start! So let’s grow even more.
So – do you have any sins or bad habits in your life that are holding you back spiritually? (We all have something)
Maybe you struggle with mom anger or impatience. Maybe you constantly compare to others, you’re too controlling with your finances or you don’t respect your husband you should.
Maybe you struggle with knowing “Who I Am in Christ,” you really struggle with past sin and shame, or you need to learn how to take every thought captive to Christ.If there’s anything you KNOW you’re struggling with that God is calling you to change – but you’re not sure if you can or even where to start, then you may want to look into something called Grace Goals.
Grace Goals is a Christian goal-setting guide designed to help you break your sins and bad habits and achieve real spiritual growth by pairing the power of setting goals with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Not only does it have super practical step-by-step to help with whatever you’re facing, but it even has tons of Scripture for real, powerful break-through.
I own this myself, and I can tell you, it really is a fantastic resource. If you have any sins or bad habits you’re struggling with — or even just areas where you’d to grow in faith but can’t seem to — I’d absolutely recommend.
4. Create Small Habits That Will Help You Grow in Faith
Think learning how to grow your faith has to be difficult, complicated or overwhelming? Think again!
There are TONS of small, little things you can do – starting today – that will make a real, positive impact on your spiritual life.
- Putting on Christian radio in the car
- Placing Scripture Cards throughout your house where you’ll see them often
- Baking a double batch of dinner and bringing the second half to someone who could use it
- Keeping a good Christian book in your purse so you can read it when you have a few minutes waiting in line.
Things these are SO EASY to do and can such a difference — we just have to think to do them!
How to Get Started: Read “Putting God First“
Have you read “Putting God First” yet? A quick and easy read, it’s chock FULL of simple, practical ideas for making God more of a priority in your life.
In fact, here’s exactly what you’ll find inside:
- Six incredibly common distractions Christian women face today.
- Six reasons God really should be your #1 priority.
- What “Putting God First” actually looks … and doesn’t look .
- Thirty-four pages of super practical things you can do TODAY to make God your #1 priority once again.
- PLUS two very special reader bonuses to help you live out what you learn!
5. Learn All You Can About Christianity
Honestly, it’s simply amazing to me how much time we can spend in church and Sunday School and still have SO much left to learn about the Bible, Christianity, Jesus and our Christian heritage.
Every pastor has their own favorite topics they love and do not love to talk about, and some things simply never come up. Plus, even if you do have an absolutely fantastic pastor who covers tons of topics in-depth, there’s only so much information you can fit into one sermon and only so many weeks in a year!
(And that assumes you have a great pastor who is generally right about things. For me, I went through 20-something years of my life before I realized that much of what I had been taught growing up was wrong!)
All of that to say — if you’re ONLY getting your Bible knowledge from your pastor, you’re missing out! Yes, listen to your pastor and learn a ton that way, but also learn how to study the Bible for yourself too!
How to Get Started: Get a Good Study Guide
Never studied the Bible for yourself before and not sure how to get started? There are TONS of good resources out there to help you!
One of my favorites, though, is Bible Study Methods by Arabah Joy.
This workbook/video course walks you step-by-step through seven different techniques for studying the Bible for yourself.
I LOVE that it’s easy enough that even true Bible beginners can dive right in without getting overwhelmed, while people who have been studying the Bible for a long time can still get a lot it too.
I’d definitely recommend!
*You might also : 12 Must-Read Christian Blogs for Women
6. Pray Bigger, Bolder Prayers
Here’s a thought-provoking question for you: If you kept a log of all of your prayers over the past two weeks, what would it say about your faith and your priorities?
- Who do you pray for? The world… or just your family?
- How often do you pray? Without ceasing… or just occasionally?
- How persistent are your prayers? Do you pray once or twice and then give up… or are there things you’ve continued to pray for for years?
- How big are your prayers? To you typically pray for big things revival, changed hearts or healing… or small things helping you make it through the day.
Now – to be clear – there is NOTHING wrong with any of these types of prayers. We should pray for all things — big and small. But if your prayers are looking a little lopsided… that might be something you need to address.
Learning how to pray more effectively is an important part of learning how to grow your faith. The stronger your prayer life, the stronger your faith will be as well!
*Related: 6 Reasons God Isn’t Answering Your Prayers
How to Get Started: Pick One Thing to Pray Big Prayers For
If you suddenly decide you’re going to pray BIG prayers for ALLLL the things — well, you’ll probably get overwhelmed, see no results, and stop trying. So don’t try to do it all at once. Pick one thing.
Are you a momma? Pray big prayers for your kids. Chances are you probably pray for them anyways, so it’ll just be a baby step up.
And it’s a good excuse to print out this super cute Mini Prayer Book to help you remember to pray big prayers for your kids.
7. Look for Ways to Help Others in Need
When asked what THE greatest commandment is, Jesus gave two: Love God and love others. (Matthew 22:36-40)
I’ve given you a ton of tips so far for helping you love God more, but what about loving others? Do you go your way to help those in need and serve those less fortunate than yourself? If not — that may just be the perfect way for you to grow in faith this year.
And again, helping others really is SO easy. We just have to remember to do it!If you’re serious about learning how to grow in faith, I’d recommend finding an activity with an actual date and time that you can sign up for. This will commit you, so you’re less ly to skip out.
If you don’t have that time in your schedule, however, it’s still helpful just to help out when and where you can.
Here are a few great suggestions to get you started:
There’s a risk we run into as Christians, and we come by it pretty honestly.
You see, it’s great to surround ourselves with others who also want to grow in faith. It’s great to go to church and Christian concerts, and hang out on Christian pages and fill our Instagram feeds with Christian inspiration.
But we run the risk of living in a Bubble. A little bubble where we all think the same, we all live the same, and our ideas are never challenged. And that’s a pretty dangerous place to be, honestly.
Yes, you should learn how to grow your faith — BUT you should also help others grow their faith as well. Even it that just means loving on them and being a tangible example of God’s love for ALL His people.
So yes — surround yourself with other Christians, and with Christian music and culture. Go to church. Go to Christian concerts. But don’t forget to share your life with people who aren’t Christians too.
If you look at Jesus’s life, he was around the “sinners” all the time. It only makes sense then that we should expand our bubble too, if we’re serious about growing in faith.
I won’t dive into this topic super in-depth in this article, but here are a few others I’ve already written that can expand on it a bit more:
- 6 Reasons You Need Non-Christian Friends Too
- Why Christians Belong in Bars
Do you want learn how to grow in faith this year? What is ONE thing you can do to start growing in faith today?
PRAYER – Tips for New and Growing Christians • ChristianAnswers.Net
It has been well said that God always answers prayer. Sometimes He says, “Yes.” sometimes He says, “NO.” Sometimes He says, “Wait for a minute,” and a day to the Lord is a thousand years to us (2 Peter 3:8). That means that a ten year wait for us, is 14 minutes and 24 seconds to God, so ask in faith, but rest in peace-filled patience.
Surveys show that more than 90% of America prays daily. No doubt they pray for health, wealth, happiness, etc. They also pray when grandma gets sick, and when grandma doesn't get better (or dies), many end up disillusioned, and some end up bitter.
This is because they don't understand what the Bible says about prayer. It teaches that sin will stop God even hearing our prayers (Psalm 66:18). It teaches, among other things, that if we pray with doubt, we will not get an answer (James 1:6-7).
Here's how to be heard:
How do you “pray with faith?” Someone once said to me, “Ray, you're a man of great faith in God,” thinking that they were paying me a compliment. They weren't. If I said to you, “I'm a man of great faith in my doctor? It's to the doctor.
If I have great faith in him, it means that I see him as being a man of integrity, a man of great ability—that he is trustworthy. I give “glory” to the man through my faith in him.
The Bible says that Abraham “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able to also perform” (Romans 4:20-21). Abraham was a man of great faith in God. Remember, that is not a compliment to Abraham.He merely caught a glimpse of God's incredible ability, His impeccable integrity, and His wonderful faithfulness to keep every promise He makes. His faith gave “glory” to a faithful God.
As far as God is concerned, if you belong to Jesus, you are a VIP. You can boldly come before the throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16). You have access to the king, because you are the son or daughter of the king. When you were a child, did you have to grovel to get your needs met by your mom or dad? I hope not.
So, when you pray, don't say, “Oh God, I hope you will supply my needs.” Instead say something , “Father, thank you that you keep every promise You make.
Your Word says that you will supply all my needs according to Your riches in glory, by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Therefore, I thank you that you will do this thing for my family.
I ask this in the wonderful name of Jesus. Amen”
It was the great missionary, Hudson Taylor, who said, “The prayer power has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see Divine power wrought in the place of weakness, failure, and disappointment, let us answer God's standing challenge, ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things of which thou knowest not of’.”
How do you get “clean hands a pure heart?” Simply by confessing your sins to God, through Jesus Christ. His blood cleanses from all sin (1 John 1:7-9). When you confess them to God through Jesus, God will not only forgive your every sin, He promises to forget that sin (Hebrew 8:12).
He will even justify you, on the grounds of the sacrifice of the Savior. That means He will count it as though you have never sinned in the first place. He will make you pure in His sight—sinless.
he will even “purge” your conscience, so that you will no longer have that sense of guilt that you sinned in the first place. That's what I means “to be justified by faith.
” That's why you need to soak yourself in Holy Scripture—to read the letters to the churches and see the wonderful things that God has done for us through the Cross of Calvary. If you don't bother to read the will, you won't have any idea of what has been left for you.How do you pray “genuine heart-felt prayers?” Simply by keeping yourself in the love of God. If the love of God is in you, you will never pray hypocritical or selfish prayers. In fact, you won't have to pray selfish prayers, if you have a heart of love. When your prayer-life is pleasing to God, the Bible says that He will reward you openly (Matthew 6:6).
How do you know that you are praying to “the God revealed in Holy Scripture?” Study the Word. Don't accept the image of God portrayed by the world, even though it appeals to the natural mind.
A loving, kind fatherly-figure, with no sense of justice or truth appeals to guilty sinners. Look to the thunderings and lightnings of Mount Sinai.
Gaze at Jesus on the cross of Calvary—hanging in unspeakable agony because of the Justice of a holy God. Such thoughts tend to banish idolatry.
Warfare—Praise The Lord and Pass the Ammunition
- Feeding on the Word—Daily Nutrition
“A healthy baby has a healthy appetite.
If you have truly been “born” of the Spirit of God, you will have a healthy appetite…” [Read more]
- Faith—Elevators Can Let You Down
“…in a world where we are continually let down, we can totally rely on, trust in, count on His promises… He will never, ever, let you down…” [Read more]
- Evangelism—Our Most Sobering Task
“You probably have a limited amount of time after your conversion to impact your unsaved friends and family with the Gospel… Here's some advice that will save you a great deal of grief…” [Read more]
- Prayer—“Wait For A Minute.”
- Warfare—Praise The Lord and Pass the Ammunition
“When you became a Christian, you stepped right into the heat of an age-old battle.
You have a three-fold enemy—the world, the flesh, and the devil… Let's look at these three resistant enemies…” [Read more]
- Fellowship—Flutter by Butterfly
“Pray about where you should fellowship… Don't become a ‘spiritual butterfly.
’ Send your roots down…” [Read more]
- Thanksgiving—Do the Right Thing
“For the Christian, every day should be Thanksgiving Day.
We should even be thankful in the midst of problems…” [Read more]
- Water Baptism
- Supporting God’s work and workers—The Last Frontier
“It was once said that the wallet is the “last frontier.
” It is the final area to be conquered—the last thing that comes to God in surrender…” [Read more]
- Troubleshooting: Cults, Atheists, Skeptics
“When cults tell you that you must acknowledge God's name to be saved, that you must worship on a certain day that you must be baptized by an elder of their church, don't panic. Merely go back to the Instruction Manual…” [Read more]
Ray Comfort of Living Waters Publications. From the booklet Save Yourself Some Pain. Edited by Films for Christ. Web page Copyright © 2001, Living Waters Publications, All Rights Reserved—except as noted on attached “Usage and Copyright” page.
ChristianAnswers.Net Christian Answers Network PO Box 1167
Marysville WA 98270-1167
Prayers for Children
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, I bless thee, that of thy infinite goodness thou hast preserved me this night past, and brought me in safety to this morning.
Withdraw not, I humbly beseech thee, thy protection from me, but take me under the care of thy providence this day.
Watch over me with the eyes of thy mercy, direct my soul and body according to the rule of thy will, that I may pass this and all my days to thy glory.
O Lord, I am but a child, and know not how to go out or come in; and I am in the midst of a sinful world. Give therefore unto thy servant an understanding heart, that I may know and choose the good, and abhor and shun that which is evil. According to thy mercy, think upon me, O Lord, for thy goodness. Make me to remember thee in the days of my youth.
O learn me true wisdom, and let the law of thy mouth be dearer to me than thousands of gold and silver and let my whole delight be therein.
O let me be devoted to thee from my childhood. Keep my heart all love of the world, of riches, or any other created thing, and fill it with the love of God. Thou knowest how many and powerful are the enemies of my soul, that seek to destroy it, the flesh and the devil.
O Lord, help; O Lord, save; O Lord, deliver me from them. Give me grace to renounce them all, and to keep thy holy will and commandments all the days of my life. Show me and make me what I must be before I can inherit thy kingdom. Teach me thy truth as it is in Jesus. Save me from my own will, and let thine be done in me and by me.
O make me thy child by adoption and grace. Renew me daily with thy Holy Spirit, and guide me in all my ways, till thou hast perfected me for thy heavenly kingdom.
Make me dutiful to my parents, affectionate to my relations, obedient to my superiors, and loving towards all mankind.
And grant that as I grow in stature, I may grow in wisdom and in thy favour, till thou shalt take me to thine everlasting kingdom, there to dwell with thee for ever and ever, through Jesus Christ my Saviour and Redeemer. Amen.
“Our Father,” etc.
I DESIRE to offer unto thee, O Lord, my evening sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for all thy mercies bestowed upon me. I bless thee for my creation, preservation, and, above all, for my redemption by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
I bless thee for bringing me safely to the conclusion of this day, and humbly implore the pardon of all the sins I have been guilty of, whether in thought, word, or deed.
Have mercy upon me, O God, and do thou free me from all the sins I have committed, and deliver me from the punishment I have deserved.O thou blessed Guide of my youth, give me thy grace to seek after thee in my early years, that thou mayest not be unmindful of me in the time of age. Keep me from the evil of the world, and carry me safe through it to thy kingdom. Take care of me, and provide for me, and dispose of me in the world, as shall be most for thy glory and my good.
Leave me not to myself, in the hands of my own counsel, but let me be taught of God. Take thou, O Lord, the gracious charge, and guidance, and government of me, and fix in my heart thy fear and love, and direct all my ways to please not myself but thee.
O redeem me from the power of my sins by thy grace, and from the punishment of them by thy Blood, and by both bring me to thy glory.
I DESIRE, O my God, to give up myself wholly to thee. I would be thine, and only thine, for ever. O my God, my Saviour, turn not away thy face from a poor child that seeks thee. Give me to know that I am nothing, and can do nothing, of myself; and that if ever I am thine, I must be wholly indebted to thee for it.
Let me be entirely devoted unto thee, and do thou make me obedient and faithful unto the end. Make me to remember thee in my bed, and think upon thee when I am waking; thou hast preserved me from the dangers of the day past, thou hast been my support ever since I was born.
Under the shadow of thy wings let me pass this night in comfort and peace. Keep me both in body and soul, and give me such rest as my body has need of. And grant, O Lord, that when I lay down my body in the grave, my soul may rise to life immortal, through the merits and intercession of thy dear Son, my Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Our Father,” etc.
A Prayer for Relations, Friends, &c., to be used after Morning and Evening Prayer
VOUCHSAFE, O Lord, to bless my father and mother, and all my relations, with the fear of thy name. Bless them in their souls and bodies; perfect them in every good word and work, and be thou their guide unto death.
Bless my friends, forgive my enemies; and grant unto all mankind the knowledge and love of thee. Have mercy upon all who are afflicted in mind, body, or estate. Give them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue all their afflictions; and receive them and me at last into thy blessed kingdom, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
Grace before Meals
O LORD, I beseech thee, give thy blessing with what thy mercy has here provided me with, that whether I eat or drink, or whatsoever I do, I may do all to thy glory and praise, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
O LORD my God, I bless thy holy name for this mercy, which I have now received from thy bounty and goodness. Feed now my soul with thy grace, that I may make it my meat and drink to do thy gracious will, through Jesus Christ my Saviour. Amen.
Source: ‘John Wesley’s Journal’
Ways to Grow in Prayer
November 11, 2013
Prayer is Relationship with God
Prayer is crucial to the most important relationship a human person can have.
Among relationships, a personal relationship with God in Christ is the one true foundation that determines the truth of all other relationships.
To the extent that we are not in Him, not walking daily in Him, not living in real communion with Him – to that extent all other relationships are built upon foundations that are at best weak, and at worst false.
St. John Vianney wrote that prayer is nothing other than union with God. Prayer is union with God! Another way to say it is, our relationship with God is our prayer. If we have, in truth, some measure of union with God, then we have to that measure “prayer.
” This may be quite different from the usual understanding of prayer! For many, prayer is something that we read or recite from memory to God – or perhaps it is a list of favors we ask or plead from Him. We need to come to understand that prayer is dialogue, not monologue.
Prayer is relationship, not solitude. Prayer is union with God.
The Catechism teaches this in several places. We find, “This relationship [of the faithful with God] is prayer.” (Catechism 2558) And again, “Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ.
” (Catechism 2564) And again, “In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.
” (Catechism 2565)
For our relationships with human persons to grow, the foundational relationship we have with God must grow: we must grow in Him. For our relationship with God to grow, our life of prayer must grow.It is that simple. Our present life of prayer is a measure of the relationship that we have with Him, here and now.
Our foundational relationship with God grows, or it stagnates, as our life of prayer grows, or stagnates.
The Journey of Prayer is a Journey in Stages
Many saints of the Church have discovered, and taught, that as one journeys through life, ones life of prayer can develop and grow – in stages – enabled by grace. We are called to grow in prayer, progressing by stages or grades of prayer, into ever-deeper and more intimate relationship with God in Christ.
There are two major levels of prayer: ascetical and mystical. Each of these levels is found in grades, or stages.
The normal development of prayer, for a soul, is to begin at the beginning of ascetical prayer with vocal prayer, and then begin to advance, or grow, in the life of prayer.
The normal journey is to advance through the stages of ascetical prayer up to the doorway of mystical prayer, and enter.
By discipline and ordinary grace, one can advance through the stages of ascetical prayer – and the heights of ascetical prayer are beautiful and fruitful indeed. But mystical prayer is different: mystical prayer is a work of God, not man.
Our part in mystical prayer is first of all to prepare for it, through the discipline of the stages of ascetical prayer. Then, if and when God sees an open and willing soul at His door, a door that He alone can open, and if and when He so blesses us, our part is to cooperate. Our part is not to obstruct in fear but rather to trust.
Our part in mystical prayer is illuminated by Mary, through her whole life: “Let it be to me according to your word.”The stages or grades of prayer are described in her own way in Teresa of Avila’s seven interior mansions, and are written of in the works of many saints. Fr. Jordan Aumann, among others, offers a modern systematic discussion of them; I have written a book on Catholic spirituality that includes these stages as part of the journey toward holiness.
Here is a list with brief descriptors of the traditional stages of the journey of prayer:
I. Ascetical Prayer – that which we can do, with ordinary grace
- Vocal prayer – with words, either formula or spontaneous.
- Meditation (mental prayer) – engagement of the mind with revealed truth, to come to know Him and to live His truth. This increasingly inflames the heart with holy love.
- Prayer of Simplicity – increasingly simple and more focused prayer of meditation, with increasing love.
II. Mystical Prayer – that which only God can initiate, with extraordinary grace
- Prayer of Quiet – infused contemplation. God is experientially, personally present. His glory is known in a wholly new and experiential way.
- Prayer of Union – the will comes into personal, experiential union with His.
- Prayer of Conforming Union – Teresa calls this the “spiritual betrothal” of the soul with her Spouse.
- Prayer of Transforming Union – Teresa calls this the “spiritual marriage” with the Spouse of our souls. Father Garrigou-Lagrange calls this “the prelude of the union of heaven.
It is most helpful, I think, to consider these stages of prayer (relationship or union with God) as comparable to stages of human relationships to which we can all relate.
In vocal prayer we talk, in meditation we seek to know more deeply and intimately, in prayer of simplicity we are comfortable enough to use few if any words: being together is enough. But in mystical prayer, in the prayer of quiet, something different happens: the One we thought we were talking or being with, had been “at a distance” before.
But now, He is here! He is really, actually here. Prayer has become fully dialogue – even though, and if, He never says a word in words. The prayers of union, in mystical prayer, increasingly bring about just that, analogous to the kind of love that leads to marriage: union, being one with the Other, the deepest longing of the heart.
I want to deal – briefly – with the beginnings of ascetical prayer. I hope and trust that those who want to pursue the higher stages more carefully will look to the references provided.
1. Vocal Prayer
We all begin with vocal prayer. Vocal prayer can be set formula prayers, such as the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the blessing before the meal, the many prayers in the Mass, and so on.
Vocal prayer can also be spontaneous, personal, individual, situation-dependent prayers of petition, of thanksgiving, of praise and so on: words of prayer flowing from the mind and heart of the believer to our Lord.
Vocal prayer is simple, but challenging. We have all memorized a collection of formula prayers, which we can recite easily – but that does not mean we can pray them well. Vocal prayer, to be prayed well, must be prayed with attention and devotion.
Indeed without attention and devotion, we can recite many beautiful words, but we have not yet prayed. We must be attentive to Whom we pray, to who we are, praying before Him (that is, we need true self-knowledge), and we need to be attentive to what we are saying, and praying.
And, we need devotion: a will devoted in loving obedience to the One to whom we pray. Vocal prayer demands of us an attentive mind and an obedient heart.
It is important to see that even this beginning of prayer – vocal prayer – is a beginning of union with God. To the extent that we are attentive and devout in our vocal prayer – for example, in praying the Our Father – to that extent we are in union with Him. We enter into Him, in the truth of the precious words of that holy prayer. We can never “outgrow” devoutly prayed vocal prayer!
On the other hand, a vocal prayer such as the Our Father is temptingly easy to simply recite without giving the first thought to God, or to our journey of discipleship in Christ! We can be standing in Mass, reciting words, but meanwhile day-dreaming or planning some unrelated task for later. Vocal prayer – especially formula vocal prayers – have great potential for good. Yet they also allow us merely to act as if in prayer, while actually we are far away. Prayer is a battle, and the battle begins when prayer begins.
Vocal prayer prayed well – such that attention and devotion become habitual in the soul – leads the soul “naturally” (supernaturally) into Christian mediation, or mental prayer.
Being attentive to God in vocal prayer stirs the mind to hunger for more – and the more is found in meditation.
Christian meditation is the engagement of the mind with the truth of God, that we might know Him, that we might love Him, that we might live His truth and love.Scripture, the Catechism, writings of the saints – we have many solid sources for the prayer of meditation. We have a tradition of Lectio Divina that can help us learn to meditate.
And once the soul begins to learn of Him, and grow in Him, and enter communion with Him in holy prayer – well, as a dear priest once told me, “Fasten your seat belts!” We were made for union with God! He made us in the divine image, and there is a certain compatibility of the human soul with Him – by design. In Him, by design, is our happiness.
In Him, in the communion of prayer, we find the foundation needed for all other relationships. Indeed the best of human relationships – marriage – point us to Him, our final end and purpose. In the communion of prayer, we find the foundation for our life!