It’s no secret: you can learn how to pray!
Even if you’ve got a houseful of screaming kids, or too much schoolwork, or a job that consumes way too much of your time.
In fact, that just means that you need prayer more! Because prayer gives true freedom, “the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:21). And that’s exactly what you need right about now, isn’t it? Yeah, I know…
…it’s what we all need!
This brief guide to Catholic prayer is the fruit of my own struggle to develop a good prayer life.
I found it difficult to just find solid guidance in learning how to pray. But good information helped immensely, in developing both an interior life and my faith as a whole. This article covers the best things I’ve learned from true experts, the keys that unlocked the riches of prayer.
So let’s get started, shall we?
Overcoming common myths
Too many people think they have good reasons why they cannot have a better prayer life.
Don’t believe them!
I’ve used these excuses myself too many times in my life. And they still creep back in when I’m not looking! Some common myths are:
- “I don’t need to pray in any ‘formal’ sense. God knows I love him.”
- “I just can’t find the time to pray.”
- “My faith isn’t deep enough to get anything out of prayer.”
- “I’ve tried learning how to pray, but I just don’t ‘get it’. It’s too hard.”
Please know that the truth about prayer it is Good News!
First step: pray for help
Turn to Jesus as you learn how to pray.
With even the smallest initial faith, you’ll find it easy to turn to Jesus and ask him for help. A wonderful prayer here is to use the words of the sick child’s father in the Gospel of Mark:
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Now you say it! Go ahead; I’ll wait. And really mean it — let it come from your heart.
Wasn’t that easy?
Hey! You’re praying!
- You’re aware of a desire for God.
- You wanted what he wants for you.
- You reached out to ask him to help you get there.
- In fact, this short prayer is an outstanding model of some basic attitudes we need for effective prayer.
Which leads us to:
This is important: Prayer depends on this attitude of neediness before God, expressed beautifully in the prayer from Scripture, above.
This attitude is one of humility and basic faith. It looks with confidence to God as the only source that can fulfill our needs and desires.
We call this having good dispositions.
The keys to learning how to pray:
- Good dispositions, especially humility and faith
Without good dispositions, we won’t really be praying.
Without perseverance, we won’t keep praying.
Two simple habits
The next step in learning how to pray is to develop two simple habits of prayer.
- Sprinkle a few quick prayers into key parts of your day
- Develop your awareness of the presence of God
This will work some quick prayers into the fabric of your normal day. You’ll also have a basic structure of prayer to build on.
Most of all, it makes prayer a natural part of daily life. That’s very important as you learn how to pray: if it’s something foreign to your normal day, you’ll be tempted to drop it as soon as you’re pressed for time.
This is very easy.
The need to start simply
You may be tempted to skip those habits mentioned above.
Do not skip them!
A very common mistake in learning how to pray is to take on too much and then grow discouraged. I’ve seen people try to start with hour-long prayer sessions, prayer journals, and long prayer workshops — only to give up in frustration.
The best approach is to do the opposite: Start very simply. Only take on a little. Build slowly.
In fact, these habits gets you started so easily that you’ll only notice the joy of suddenly having prayer in your day! And you won’t have to struggle to find the time.
You’ll form a wonderful habit of prayer that runs throughout your day. Everything else will be framed by your deep love for God, and your desire for union with him.
Now you’ll find it easy to spend a few minutes in silence with the Lord.
Talking with God: mental prayer
Daily mental prayer is necessary for the Christian.
Your good habits of brief prayer throughout the day will make this not only easy, but an absolute pleasure!
Mental prayer, or Christian meditation, will be the focus of your growth in how to pray.
A school of prayer: the Rosary
There’s actually an easy way to learn how to pray: the Rosary!
Non-Catholics often just do not understand the Rosary. (Believe me, I’ve been there myself!)
Yes, the Holy Rosary is indeed a loving devotion to Mary. But it’s really much more than that: the Rosary is a beautiful school of prayer. It’s a great way to learn how to pray.
The whole point of the Rosary is to lead you through some of the central Mysteries of Christ’s life. As you go through each Mystery, you spend some time meditating on it.
New life awaits you!
Prayer is your lifeline to a new life in Christ.
Learn how to pray. Give yourself the gift of knowing how to talk with God.
Prayer “is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the human will of the Son of God made man.”
Did you catch that?
You and God both act together in prayer!
The Lord awaits. “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20)
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let him who hears say, “Come.” And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.