Prayer is a gift from God given to all His children, no one is excluded. Basic prayer is something anyone can do, God made us that way. It is the raising of one's heart and mind to God in it's simplest definition. God calls us tirelessly to prayer, but it is us who must respond. We can turn our backs and refuse this gift or we can eagerly respond to His call. We come to know the Lord through prayer; He reveals himself to us. God already knows us fully and completely. He doesn't need to get to know us better; He wants us to come to a greater knowledge of Him, so that we may begin to understand the infinite love He has for us. Who wouldn't want to get to know God better?
Jesus prayed. This in itself shows us the immense importance of prayer. If the second person of the Holy Trinity prayed and knew it's necessity; how much more, we, with our fallen natures, need prayer. He taught his disciples how to pray and when He ascended to the Father He sent the Holy Spirit to help us. " As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!' So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God." Gal. 4:6,7
Since we are His children and heirs to the Kingdom we become closer to God through prayer. Just as our bodies grow physically so should our prayer life grow over the course of our lives. The beginnings of prayer is usually vocal prayer [though many children are natural contemplatives but often lose this gift]. Vocal prayer is prayer performed by means of a given formula, they are recited alone or in community with others. Mental prayer is prayer without articulation of words and is generally called meditation. Vocal prayer and meditation are often mixed as the person is thinking about God while praying with their voice. If you are thinking of a baseball game while praying, you are simply mouthing words. Distractions are common when someone begins praying. When you catch your mind wandering, simply draw it back to God; eventually distractions become less common if you ignore them. Don't fight the distractions, just gently push them away. This is also a good idea for those practicing the Presence of God; when you become aware that your mind is caught up in things other than God, gently draw your gaze back to Him. Actually, I am getting a little ahead of myself here as I wanted to post on an awareness of God's constant presence in a later post on prayer, today is just supposed to be the basics so I will end it here:
The most important thing to remember during any kind of prayer is to pray with your whole heart. When you are not in the mood to pray it sometimes helps to listen to music, read your bible or think of things that you are thankful for to perk up your heart. Throwing your whole body into the prayer often helps, too. For myself, listening to inspiring music often does the trick as does asking for Our Lady's intercession to help me pray well.
My next post will be on the Rosary since tomorrow is The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the Rosary is an important part of a Catholic's prayer life. After that, I'd like to post about intercessory prayer and the prayer of suffering.