How to pray

Jesus tells us that, when you pray, you should ‘go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you’ (Matthew 6:6). It is important that when we come to pray we give the Lord ‘quality time’. Our prayer is a relationship, so we need to work on it. 

One does not pray only when one has the time.
One makes time for the Lord. (CCC 2710)

We are human and prone to distractions, so we should avail of whatever supports to prayer are available. Try creating a suitable atmosphere, a quiet room, perhaps with candles and soft music. It is not necessary to have a set place for prayer, but it can be helpful.

Sometimes, you may be able to visit a chapel. This has the added advantage that if the Blessed Sacrament is there, you are actually in the sacramental presence of the Lord Jesus.

You should always begin with a prayer to the Holy Spirit, to help you to be open to His inspirations. Scripture says, ‘The Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit Himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words’ (Romans 8:26). 

We could ask for His help in our own words or use a simple invocation such as ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ . We can also use this beautiful prayer by Cardinal Mercier.

O Holy Spirit, soul of my soul 
I adore you. 
Enlighten me, guide me, Strengthen me and console me. 
Tell me what I ought to do 
And command me to do it 
I promise to be submissive in everything 
That you ask me to do 
And to accept everything that you permit 
To happen to me. 
Only show me what is your will 
And give me the grace to do it. 

When we begin to pray, it is important that we become conscious that God is love and He loves us passionately. All our prayer is a response to the God who loved us first. God’s love for us is a free gift, it is gratuitous. We don’t have to earn this love. He loves you as you are right now. As you come to pray, listen to Him speaking words of love in Scripture and realise that they are addressed to you personally. As you hear God speak, allow the reality of His love for you to penetrate your heart. ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love. I still maintain my faithful love for you’ (Jeremiah 31:3). 
There is a story from our Franciscan tradition that one night St Francis went through the forest, weeping because ‘Love is not loved’.   He was deeply aware that God is Love and he found it heartbreaking that so many people ignored God. He lived his life as a response to that love. St Clare’s response was ‘totally love Him who gave Himself totally for your love’. Our journey, too, is to reciprocate that love.

Always remember
God has called you into being 
God loves you more than you can ever imagine 
God has a vital purpose for your life.

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The value of contemplation on the mystery of the Incarnation remains unchanged. And despite the changed conditions of the time, for the majority of people there remain unaltered the characteristic periods of the day - morning, noon and evening - which mark the periods of their activity and constitute an invitation to pause in prayer.

Pope Paul VI