I do not spend enough time in prayer. Does that sound familiar to anyone else? I understand that Fr. Mitch Pacwa has a chapter in one of his books called, "If not wicked, then busy." I let busyness be my excuse, although it's not a good one. But I also received very good advice in confession one time when the priest told me to pray many times during the day in short, spontaneous prayer. I do that more now, and I do find it beneficial. In his book, Holiness for Housewives and Other Working Women, Dom Hubert van Zeller reminds us that God expects us to pray in accord with our state in life. "The only serious mistake you are liable to make is to confuse the requirements of your sort of prayer with those of the contemplative nun's. The effect of both yours and hers have to be the same; it is the expression that differs" (pp. 26-27).
He also advocates being direct in prayer (p. 34). To that end, I have thought about short prayers that have meaning to me. Here are some of them.
Come, Lord Jesus.
This comes from Revelation 22:20 and is the second-to-the-last verse in the Bible. Another variation of this occurs in St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (16:22): "Our Lord, come" (Aramaic: maranatha). This prayer can be helpful for initiating spiritual communion. I imagine being present at one of the tabernacles I visit for Eucharistic adoration.
This comes from Mark 7:34. A man who was deaf with impaired speech was brought to Jesus. Jesus put his fingers in the man's ears, spat and touched his tongue, looked up to heaven and sighed, and then said: "'Ephphatha,' that is, 'Be opened.' And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly" (34-35). I love the fact that Jesus sighed. Such a powerful expression of compassion in such a small gesture. What a truly inspiring prayer without words in that sigh! As Dom van Zeller says, "All you have to do is to lay your soul open to the impulse of grace" (p. 26). I think of "Be opened" when I try to make myself available to that grace.
Hold me in Your gaze.
Thanks to Fr. Mark from the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma and his wonderful blog, Vultus Christi (The Face of Christ) for this one. This entry is from February 23, 2009:
Held in His Gaze
Mother Marie-Thérèse Bonnin, a French Benedictine of Jesus Crucified, remarked that nothing "repaired" her soul like the contemplation of the Holy Face. In 1940 she wrote:
I have need of prayer in the same way one has need of recuperating physically. Time passes quickly close to Him. It is not that I feel anything, it is enough to know that I am held in His gaze, enough to believe in His love.
This is a good prayer to say while in the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
This comes from one of my favorite formal prayers, the Anima Christi (Soul of Christ). I like to use this prayer when I am tempted, or when I feel overwhelmed.
This comes from John 19:28. It is one of the seven sayings of Christ from the cross. It calls to mind Psalm 42:
As a hart longs for flowing streams,
so longs my soul for thee, O, God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while men say to me continually, "Where is your God?"
The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus links this saying and Psalm 42 in Chapter 5 of his book, Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross.
This prayer helps me to increase my longing for God, to recognize that I need God more than I need water to live.
Come, Holy Spirit.
When my wife and I went on an Engaged Encounter weekend nine years ago last month to prepare for the sacrament of Marriage (and I can't say enough good things about Engaged Encounter), I had a very powerful experience through the sacrament of Penance. In my room at the retreat house was a plaque that had the words, Veni, Spritus Sanctus (Come, Holy Spirit). It was painfully (literally) clear to me then and now that the Holy Spirit was at work in me. There is a holy water fount outside our bedroom door with a dove on it, and that fount acts as a reminder to say Come, Holy Spirit, and to remember that encounter with the Third Person of the Trinity who I have known the least. This prayer helps me to remember that I need to get to know the Holy Spirit a whole lot better. I also use this prayer before reading scripture, especially when praying using lectio divina.
God, be merciful to me a sinner.
This comes from Luke 18:13. It is the story of the tax collector who knows he is a sinner and asks God for mercy, and the Pharisee who forgets that he too is a sinner and a brother to the tax collector. That is easy for us to forget. One of the things I have gotten out of the habit of doing is an examination of conscience before bed. I had best start that practice again tonight. And yet, while we need to be mindful of our sinfulness, we also need to be mindful of God's mercy. So much of the scriptures is God telling us the mercy that awaits us if we come to Him. Clearly this was Jesus' message to St. Faustina.
I use this as shorthand for Mary's "yes" when she answered the angel Gabriel's message that she would bear the Messiah. She said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). This is challenging stuff, because Mary is actually offering herself as a "slave" to the Lord (the Greek is δουλη or doule; the Vulgate translates it as ancilla). As Americans especially, we don't like to think that way. But Luke is trying to convey the complete openness of Mary to doing God's will, even if it is contrary to her own. We see this with Jesus when he asks in the garden of Gethsemane: "Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). We see this when Peter, repenting of his denial of Jesus by giving his three statements expressing his love for Jesus after the Resurrection, is told by Jesus:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, "Follow me."
So we are asked to say "yes," and not count the cost, knowing that God will lead us to Himself if we just let him, if we just follow him.