A Lenten Meditation by Fr. Roger Landry: Prayer

A Message on Prayer
By Fr. Roger Landry, priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, serves as Catholic Chaplain to Columbia University in New York City and to the Thomas Merton Institute for Catholic Life
Monday, March 8, 2021

The Open Secret to Our Faith Coming Alive

The secret of a truly vital Christianity,” St. John Paul II wrote, “is learning the Trinitarian shape of Christian prayer and living it fully.” 

The Trinitarian Shape of Christian prayer means far more than “saying our prayers.” We can pray because God is an eternal trialogue into which Jesus by his incarnation has brought our human nature and the Holy Spirit has incorporated us through baptism. Prayer is far more than an exchange of words or ideas, but of persons. Through prayer, we enter mysteriously into the interpersonal conversation who is God: God comes to abide in us and help us abide in him. 

There’s nothing more important in life than to learn and live this reality.  Our Christian life is worth, various saints have said, what our prayer is worth. 

Lent is a season in which all Catholics — young and old, fervent and tepid — are called by Jesus to focus on their prayer. “When you pray,” he tells us on Ash Wednesday. Lent takes its inspiration from Jesus’ own 40 days praying in the desert. We are summoned to go out into the “desert” with him, far from ordinary distractions and from the hustle and bustle of daily life, to focus on what’s essential. The first test of Lent is whether we will do so. 

Many people are afraid to pray. Some think they don’t know how and therefore won’t do it correctly. Others have a false notion of God — like a stern school principal —  and want to stay as far away as possible from the principal’s office. Others are concerned about what God might ask them to do or give up. 

Jesus, in Lent, tries to address these concerns. He teaches us about the goodness of the Father, how he’ll never give us a stone when we ask for bread. He helps us to know the types of things to discuss with the Father, like the seven petitions of the Lord’s prayer. He even promises that he will send the Holy Spirit to assist us in our prayer.

 But the key is to prioritize prayer, commit to it and start. Prayer, as Pope Benedict said, is “faith in action.” And Jesus wouldn’t be calling us to repentance and faith unless he were prepared to give us everything he knows we’ll need. 
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