In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, prayer is defined as “a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God”.
Associate Professor Glenn Morrison at the School of Philosophy and Theology, The University of Notre Dame Australia, explained that prayer is an invitation for the believer to sacredly communicate with God in the depths of faith, hope and love, “a spiritual practice” into the love-life of the Trinity, “so that we may adore the Father, walk in the light of the Son, and breathe hope through the hope of the Spirit”.
“Prayer speaks intimately about the meaning of life and the revelation of God [as] they interplay with the life of the soul, identifying that at the centre of life is to be close to the Father’s heart like Jesus (Jn 1:18),” Prof Morrison said.
“We need prayer to sustain the life of our soul and to nurture the life of our mind, heart and strength so that we can learn to forgive through the forgiveness of Christ, to rejoice at the return of a lost son and daughter, to give thanks to God for the beloved we have lost through death, and we need to pray so that we can remember the sacrifice of Christ’s gift of self for the world.
“We need therefore to pray so that we can hear the questions that God is asking us such as ‘What are you looking for?’ (Jn 1:38) or ‘Whom are you looking for?’ (Jn 20:15),” he explained
Prof Morrison also explained that praying continuously could affect the soul-which is “the life-force of the human body” however “fragile”, easily trembled, shivered and panted in the face of suffering, in threefold.
“First, our souls become attuned to talking to God and entering into the love-life of the Trinity.
Second, the soul learns to be spontaneous in its life of faith through obedience to God’s will, giving charity to others and learning to be poor in spirit [to need God in all things],” he said.
“Third, the soul becomes forever changed by the grace of God. This speaks of conversion, a radical turnabout to live a life of responsibility, generativity, creativity, goodness and covenant with God.
“Through such conversion, the soul learns that at the heart of life is to seek spiritual growth…in the ways we speak courteously and care for others; to encourage and build up the life of others in selfless ways.
“In sum, the effect of prayer to our soul is the eternal progress to be a person in Christ, that is to say, to seek friendship with God,” he added.
Prof Morrison also encourages those who pray to take a brief moment to study the scriptures so that “people of faith learn a vocabulary of prayer, theological, scriptural and liturgical language”.
“The Gospels narrate how Jesus relating intimately to his Father in Heaven, and teach us how to pray such as the “Our Father” (Mt 6:9-13). Moreover, the Gospels teach us how to develop our attitude to talk to God,” he said.
“Given that prayer is at the heart of our being, it is not surprising that Jesus shared with his disciples how to live a prayerful and blessed life such as being ‘poor in spirit’ (Mt 5:3), ‘to hunger and thirst for righteousness’ (Mt 5:6) and being ‘merciful’ (Mt 5:7).
“The Gospels help people how to spontaneously open their hearts to God in prayer, and so, Jesus will invite us to see that to pray to God is to come to him with all our suffering, hopes and burdens (Matt 11:28-20),” he continued.
Prof Morrison emphasised that for prayer to be beneficial for our soul, it must be said “not entirely for oneself” but “by praying for others, for our beloved ones, the Church and even strangers”.
“Where prayer is saturated by our own desires to selfishly enrich and benefit our own lives, the ego triumphs over the soul. In contrast, the act of praying is deeply personal and at once deeply communal,” he said.
“To benefit the soul, forming a daily examination of our lives in the morning and in the evening will help to open the soul to the conscience and the will of God [in silence] (1 Kings 19:12).”
It is through praying in silence, Prof Morrison believes that the soul “resonates a taste for the scripture, to learn from the tradition of prayer, and reflect upon how to think and feel with the imagination of Christ”.
“In and through prayer, we can be certain that God will reveal to us that the day of salvation is today, is ‘now, if we listen to God’s voice (2 Cor 6:2),” he concluded.
By Theresia Titus. Reproduced with permission from Issue 24 (April 2020) of The Record Magazine, the official publication of the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth.