Lord, Teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1)
In addressing the battle of prayer, the Church offers another bit of advice: "Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness . . . disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride . . . . The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance" (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2728. See the link listed in the Word of Introduction posted earlier).
I do not typically employ only one strategy during my time with the Lord. I often mix and match two or three. Strategy One dealt with prayer lists. Strategy Two uses acrostics to keep me centered on prayer. In this essay I talk about one of the several acrostics I use. I call this one: CROSS.
C— I meditate on the Crucifix on the wall in front of me and I let my imagination wander to what Christ’s Crucifixion might have been like for Him. What did the cross accomplish for me? How did my sins cause His agony and death? My thoughts often take me to Gethsemane, the courtyard where He was whipped, the road to Golgotha, the soldiers hammering the spikes into His flesh. Sometimes I can even hear Him cry out in pain.
R— Then I meditate on the Resurrection. What might it have been like for the women to arrive at the tomb, only to find it empty? How does that empty tomb validate God’s promise of redemption, salvation, forgiveness and the offer of eternal life? What promise does His resurrection hold for me when I die? What might it be like when I am resurrected on that last day, and I stand before Him who died and rose again for . . . for me?
O— After the Crucifixion and Resurrection, I meditate on the “Our Father” (the Lord’s Prayer—Matthew 6). Instead of simply reciting the prayer, I pause at each verse, sometimes each word. For example, what does “Our Father” really mean in context with the whole Church? Who are my Christian brothers and sisters? Sometimes my thoughts take me across the world to places such as Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Iran where Christians are, at that very moment, persecuted, tortured, imprisoned for no other reason than their faith in Christ. My prayer continues to “Hallowed be thy name.” Have I forgotten the holiness of God? Do I misuse His name by how I act toward others? Do I live in such as way as to give unbelievers reason to sneer at His name? And so I move through the rest of the prayer in similar fashion. As you might imagine, meditating word by word and sentence by sentence through this prayer can take quite some time.
S— the first S is for Supplication. At this point, I begin my prayer for others . . . family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, politicians, students in my classes – whomever the Holy Spirit brings to mind and who might not yet be on my prayer list.
S— the second S is for Sacrifice. Now I offer myself as a living sacrifice to God. Using a prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola, I ask Him to take my memory, my freedom, will, understanding, health, wealth, talents -- everything I have and cherish -- and to use them for His Kingdom.
Like prayer lists, acrostic prayers like this one help me maintain focus on the battle. Perhaps this strategy will also be useful to you. I’ll talk about the other strategies I use in later essays.
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