By: Madeleine Sanders, Columnist
Every year as we begin the Lenten season the Church calls us to looks at three pillars: fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. Often, many people focus only on the first two tennents– fasting and almsgiving– by giving up ice cream or soda, and by donating their money or time to those in need. While, if done right, these are great ways to grow during the Lenten season, as Catholics we are also called to reflect and grow in our prayer life during this season. This year, while we reflect on what we should fast from and who we should give to, we should also call to mind our prayer lives and truly ask how you can grow closer to God through prayer.
Undoubtedly, prayer is the foundation of our faith. But what truly is prayer? Prayer is a recognition that we are created for relationship with our Heavenly Father. It is an understanding that, in order to strengthen that relationship and come to better know God’s Heart for us, it is an essential means of communication. If we understand prayer to be simply nothing else but a way for us to talk to God, why is it that sometimes that conversation takes a little longer to get started?
One hindrance to prayer that comes to mind is “performance pressure”. In other words, attempting to present a “perfect” version of ourselves before entering into prayer so that God might only see a certain side of us. When we enter into prayer, God already knows everything on our hearts. He knows what we want to say to Him, but nonetheless He desires to listen anyway. He knows our joys, our fears, and our anxieties, and all that weigh heavily on our hearts. He wants to enter in to all of our anxious thoughts and comfort us with His peace. Because of that, we can rest assured that, praying with “clarity and sincerity of heart”, as a priest once said will always be pleasing to Him. Bring your honest, messy heart to Him, knowing that He will provide you with the graces you ask for.
A second, and maybe more obvious, hindrance to prayer, is that of time. How good are we at truly prioritizing our time? Prioritizing prayer isn’t always easy and certainly not when the world demands so much from us. What is critical to remember though is that God always prioritizes us. He is never too busy to hear what is on our heart. He has endless time to listen to each individual who calls on Him.
Certainly our prayer lives always need refining. Sure, we could pray longer or better. Maybe we could work on calling on the Holy Spirit more frequently. There is always room for improvement, but let us remember that the end goal of prayer is always to bring us closer into relationship with God. As St. Therese of Lisieux says, “Prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.”