27 Jul Coming (Back) to Prayer
By Jennifer Ely
Prayer can often seem daunting to us. There are so many ways to pray, so many things that you could say, or could do. How do you know how to start, or where? What does it sound like to have a conversation with God?
Whether you’re completely new to prayer, you’re coming back to it after some time away, or you’re just feeling like you need a push in the right direction, there’s one foundational reminder we all need to hear from time to time: prayer is the fruit of relationship. Just as my running up to a total stranger in the street and talking to them about every intimate detail of my life seems bonkers, so too does it feel strange to speak to a God whom I don’t know about the deepest longings or pains in my heart. So first, how do I get to know God? It’s fairly simple, actually: we run to the Scriptures. These words that have been handed down to us over millenia aren’t just pretty sayings; they are the revelation of God himself! God speaks to us, revealing his heart to us all along the way, from those first moments when he walked in the garden with Adam all the way through the Cross and into the glimpses of eternity given to John in the Book of Revelation. We need the Scriptures to know him, to thirst for God who thirsts for us first (CCC 2560).
But the Bible can be intimidating: written first in languages that most of us don’t speak anymore, we rely on translations-and there are more than a few! There are also 73 canonical books in there, spanning thousands upon thousands of years of history and millions of tiny details that all somehow tie together to lead us toward salvation. It’s a beautiful love story woven into a glorious tapestry…but it’s a lot! So how can we, little and finite as we are, hope to begin to learn about this God who loves us so very much? There are a few ways to dive into Scripture that can not only be understandable, but also help us to see the true adventure of Christianity. Let’s take a look at a few:
The “Bible in a Year” Podcast with Father Mike Schmitz
No, I’m not just here to plug Ascension Press, but you’ve got to hand it to them: they’ve done the work of properly grouping and sectioning out the bible into 365 days of material and placed it into the hands of a holy priest who also happens to be really good at public speaking. The “Bible in a Year” podcast takes the listener through daily readings chronologically, with a few of the non-historical books (Psalms, Proverbs, etc.) mixed in each day. There are extra episodes with explanations at the beginning of each major historical event provided by Father Schmitz and Jeff Cavins, who is responsible for creating a helpful bible timeline for Ascension Press’ Adventure Bible. Not only is everything being read to you, you’re even getting a short explanation of the contents along with personal applications on how to live out the fullness of the Christian life every single day. This is an excellent resource for any Christian at any point in their faith journey. The podcast is completely free, and available on most all listening platforms.
Readings of the Day | Catholic Liturgy
Every day, the Church celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And during that celebration, we have readings particularly selected from the Bible: one from the Old Testament (except during Easter); one from the Psalms/biblical Canticles; and one or two from the New Testament: one from the Letters, and one from the Gospels. Even if you can’t go to Daily Mass, taking time each day (or on particular days) to read and pray with the Scriptures can help you to more deeply understand the faith. There is always a connection between the readings, too, whether by subject or by the feast of the day. The schedule of daily readings can be accessed through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, or through several smartphone apps.
Reading through the Gospels | Meeting Jesus
The Gospels are a particular treasure of the Christian life, because in them we meet the Word made Flesh. It is the story and the words of Christ himself, whom we seek above all else. Choosing one of the four accounts, read your way through a chapter each time you sit down with your Bible. Pray with the words, and allow Jesus to speak to your heart. If you don’t understand something, bring it to your pastor, or invest in a Catholic Study Bible (there are a few different good ones!) so that you can start understanding the Christian life on a deeper level as you move through each account.
Liturgy of the Hours | The Hidden Treasure of Holy Mother Church
The Divine Office, as it is often called, is a set of prayers based in Scripture and Tradition that all priests and religious are bound to pray daily. This form of prayer is not often taught to the laity, but it is one of the great pillars of liturgical prayer that sanctifies our time and our world. Liturgy of the Hours is a type of prayer that has been adapted from our Jewish brothers and sisters, who pray the Psalms and other prayers daily, at several particular times of day. Liturgy of the Hours is the same: The two “hinge” hours of Morning and Evening Prayer are joined by Daytime Prayer, Night Prayer, and the Office of Readings (which can be said at any point during the day). The Liturgy of the Hours is jam-packed with Scripture and writings from the treasury of the saints and Church Doctrine. If going to daily Mass every Day will help you hear 99% of the Bible in three years, Liturgy of the Hours will do the same in just one! Starting with the hinge hours is always the best way to begin, and adding more hours into your day as you are able will help you to keep the Lord before you all day long. The Scriptures are curated for the Divine Office just as they are for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and can help us to enter into the day with deeper purpose and a deeper understanding of the heart of Christ.