c) Prayer

prayer is the keyQuotes AT-A-GLANCE: Prayer

(See Further Down the Page for the Full Quotes.)

  1. Prayer tries to open us or our loved ones up in such a way that we can hear God say to us “I love you.” (Fr Ron Rolheiser)
  2. Prayer is the first step, because it is opening oneself to the Lord to be able to open up to others. (Pope Francis)
  3. It is through prayer that Jesus leads us to his Father… that we hear his voice speaking through our consciences… that we begin to see things Jesus’ way…. that you will receive the power to show compassion to every human being…. It is prayer that will bring joy into your lives. (Pope John-Paul II)
  4. To pray, I think, does not mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things, or to spend time with God instead of spending time with other people. Rather, it means to think and live in the presence of God. (Henri Nouwen)
  5. In prayer we express to God our feelings, our thoughts, our sentiments…. In prayer, we open our hearts and our minds to this God of love. And it is prayer that makes us one with the Lord. Through prayer we come to share more deeply in God’s life and in his love. (Pope John-Paul II)
  6. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it. When you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly—you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires. (St James)
  7. The heart of all prayer is ‘Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done.’ (Fr Eamon Devlin)
  8. We expect to hear he will give good things to you. But no, he doesn’t say that! He says that he will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! And this is tremendous. (Pope Francis)
  9. God is a loving parent who knows better than we do what is good for us. Someday we will understand God’s deeper wisdom in not answering that prayer. CS Lewis once suggested that we will spend most of eternity thanking God for prayers that he did not answer! He is right. (Fr Ron Rolheiser)
  10. It is by prayer alone that we are brought into God’s presence, and maintained in it without interruption. (Madame Guyon)
  11. Prayer as a way of ‘accustoming’ oneself to being with God brings into being men and women who are NOT motivated by selfishness, by the desire to possess, or by the thirst for power. (Pope Benedict XVI)
  12. To pray as a Christian demands concrete involvement in trying to bring about what is pleaded for in the prayer. (Fr Ron Rolheiser)
  13. Prayer makes your hearts bigger, until it is capable of containing the gift of God himself. (Mother Teresa)
  14. “Praying always lifts us out of our worries and concerns.
    It makes us rise above everything that hurts, upsets or disappoints us, and helps to put ourselves in the place of others, in their shoes.” (Pope Francis)
  15. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to his voice in the depths of our hearts. (Mother Teresa)
  16. “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice.” (Jesus)
  17. Jesus’ entire ministry arises from his prayer, and is sustained by it. (Pope Benedict XVI)
  18. Real prayer comes from the heart. (Henri Nouwen)
  19. Silence will teach us a lot. It will teach us to speak with Christ and to speak joyfully to our brothers and sisters. (Mother Teresa)
  20. Jesus asks us to stay with the silence. And be aware of ourselves in the emptiness and awkwardness and let God’s word sink into us. (Fr Eamon Devlin)
  21. Man achieves the fullness of prayer not when he expresses himself, but when he lets God be most fully present in prayer. (Pope John-Paul II)
  22. With the ‘Our Father’ the Lord teaches us the priorities of our prayer and cleanses and purifies our desires and in this way he cleanses and purifies our hearts. (Pope Benedict XVI)
  23. I cannot but notice that Christ Our Lord had a distinct attraction for private prayer. I can recall only two occasions when He shared His prayer with others…. But what an insistence He places on private prayer! Let me quote some relevant texts, almost at random, to show this. ‘Jesus, rising very early in the morning, went into a desert place and there He prayed.’ ‘Having dismissed the crowd He went up into the mountain to pray.’ ‘When it was evening, He was there alone and He spent the whole night in the prayer of God.’ He spent forty days alone in the desert. In the garden of Gethsemane He withdrew from His disciples in order to pray alone. (Fr Robert Nash)
  24. “How do we preserve friendship except through frequent contact, conversation, being together in good times and bad? Saint Teresa of Jesus used to say that prayer is just such ‘friendly contact, often spending time alone with the one who we know loves us'” (Pope Benedict XVI)
  25. “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Jesus)
  26. This is the reason for prayer…: the birth always of good works, good works. (St Teresa of Avila)
  27. If you want God to take possession of you, then you are praying. That is all that prayer is… Ask yourself: what do I really want when I pray? Do I want to be possessed by God?… Where we want to go is not to the point; it is where God wants to take us. Prayer is as simple as conversation between friends…. The essential act of prayer is to stand unprotected before God. What will God do? He will take possession of us. (Sister Wendy Beckett)
  28. We cannot say prayers at all unless we know also the prayer of silence. In silent prayer there are no words and hence no thoughts. We are still. This silence is nothing to be afraid of. Five or ten minutes, whatever can be spared: you are just there to stand in his presence and let him take possession of you. Whether you are aware of that presence does not matter. God is there, whatever your feelings, just as Jesus knew God was there even when he felt abandoned on the cross. (Sister Wendy Beckett)
  29. There is a tendency for people to say that they have no time for prayer… many things that are pleasant and profitable—tv programmes, books, conversations—may have to be sacrificed at times. But you will make this and any other sacrifice if you hunger and thirst for God to possess you, and this is my whole point. There is time enough for what matters supremely to us, and there always will be… most of us can manage a ten‑minute silence. (Sister Wendy Beckett)
  30. You pray for God’s sake; you are there for him to look on you, to love you…. (Sister Wendy Beckett)
  31. When Jesus was asked by the apostles to teach them how to pray, he did not tell them to do as he did, which was apparently to go into a lonely place and be still. Rather, he gave them words—the ‘Our Father’—which spell out in very simple terms the attitudes that we should bring to prayer. It is the desires behind the words that make this prayer so significant…. Rote prayer is not prayer at all…. Prayer is essentially an attitude…. (Sister Wendy Beckett)
  32. Perhaps of all the advice one can receive about prayer, this is the most crucial: We learn to pray by praying…. (Sister Wendy Beckett)
  33. To (begin to) pray is by no means easy. It will become easy or, at least, easier in time. If we persevere long enough it may even become instinctive, the way we function, but it does not start like that. It starts with making resolutions, imposing order when we might like the pleasure of disorder, doing whatever is necessary to align ourselves with God. It may take years before we have the habit of prayer, as it were. But if we want it we will most certainly be given it…. (Sister Wendy Beckett)
  34. If I had to suggest one prayer—we are talking of words here—that will always strengthen us and bring us peace, I would offer simply the word ‘Jesus’…. (Sister Wendy Beckett)
  35. The real meaning of any petition is to be given grace to accept what happens…. (Sister Wendy Beckett)
  36. Not to pray, not to be a true Christian, is to declare a reluctance to live life to the full. It is a choice of a small, warm, selfish life. However seductive the comfort of it is, it is the choice of a fool. The great life that is possible in God has infinitely more to offer. It would be like Rembrandt refusing to paint because he could live on his wife’s money. (Sister Wendy Beckett)
  37. What we feel does not essentially matter. This is especially true of prayer. I write this with a sinking feeling that most of you will not believe me; feelings come and go; any relationship, whether with God or man that has only feeling to support it is in trouble. When the feeling goes (and it will), what have you left? Nothing. Whereas if you have made a rational choice and cling to it, what you have endures…. All too often people say, ‘I was too sick to pray,’ or ‘I was too worried to pray.’ Rather we should say, ‘My prayer today is of a sick and worried person.’ (Sister Wendy Beckett)
  38. However poor and humble our prayer, this is its aim: that God will take possession of us, live within us, give his love to the world through us. (Sister Wendy Beckett)
  39. If some of you don’t pray because you don’t believe or it goes against your conscience, please send positive vibes my way. (Pope Francis)
  40. Prayer will be the salt that gives flavour to your lives. (Pope John-Paul II)

Full Quotes:
Prayer

“Prayer tries to open us or our loved ones up in such a way that we can hear God say to us ‘I love you.’”

—Fr Ron Rolheiser

“Prayer can truly change your life. For it turns your attention away from yourself and directs your mind and your heart toward the Lord. If we look only at ourselves, with our own limitations and sins, we quickly give way to sadness and discouragement.”

— Pope John-Paul II, as quoted in “Pope John Paul II: In My Own Words”, 1998, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, page 15, with the sub-heading “‘Meeting with Youth, New Orleans, 1987”.

“Prayer is the first step, because it is opening oneself to the Lord to be able to open up to others.”

—Pope Francis, 26th July 2014, in a “casual Q&A with priests of Caserta” as reported in print by Vatican Radio

“My dear young people, it is through prayer that Jesus leads us to his Father. It is in prayer that the Holy Spirit transforms our lives. It is in prayer that we come to know God: to detect his presence in our souls, to hear his voice speaking through our consciences, and to treasure his gift to us of personal responsibility for our lives and for our world.

It is through prayer that we can clearly focus our attention on the person of Jesus Christ and see the total relevance of his teaching for our lives. Jesus becomes the model for our actions, for our lives. We begin to see things his way.

Prayer transforms our individual lives and the life of the world…. In prayer, united with Jesus – your brother, your friend, your Saviour, your God – you begin to breathe a new atmosphere. You form new goals and new ideals. Yes, in Christ you begin to understand yourselves more fully….

there is more. Through prayer you come to experience the truth that Jesus taught: “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (Io. 6, 63). In Jesus, whom you get to know in prayer, your dreams for justice and your dreams for peace become more definite and look for practical applications. When you are in contact with the Prince of Peace, you understand how totally opposed to his message are violence and terrorism, hatred and war. In him you experience the full meaning of an interpersonal relationship that is based on generous love. Christ offers you a friendship that does not disappoint, a fidelity beyond compare….

In union with Jesus, in prayer, you will discover more fully the needs of your brothers and sisters. You will appreciate more keenly the pain and suffering that burden the hearts of countless people….

Through prayer you will receive the strength to resist the spirit of the world. You will receive the power to show compassion to every human being – just as Jesus did. Through prayer you will have a part in salvation history as it unfolds in your generation. In prayer you will be able to enter into the heart of Jesus and understand his feelings towards his Church. By using the Psalms, the prayerbook that Jesus used, you will be able to repeat, under the action of the Holy Spirit, the praise and thanksgiving that have been offered to God for centuries by his people. In all the circumstances of your lives, you will find that Jesus is with you – he is close to you in prayer. It is prayer that will bring joy into your lives and help you to overcome the obstacles to Christian living. Remember the words of Saint James: “Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray” (Iac. 5, 13)….

It is my hope today, as I return to Rome, that you will remember why I came among you. And as long as the memory of this visit lasts, may it be recorded that I, John Paul II, came to Britain to call you to Christ, to invite you to pray!”

—Pope John Paul II, said in Ninian Park, Cardiff, to the Young People of England and Wales, as seen online and quoted on page 88 and 89 of “The Pope in Britain: Collected Homilies & Speeches”, St Paul Publications, Slough; 1982.

“Prayer begets (creates) faith. Faith begets love. And love begets service on behalf of the poor.”

—Mother Teresa

“I’ll show you how good I am at by praying by how good I am at helping people.”

—a quote given in a sermon, Lent 2009

“To pray, I think, does not mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things, or to spend time with God instead of spending time with other people. Rather, it means to think and live in the presence of God. All our actions must have their origin prayer…. In prayer a ‘self-centred monologue’ becomes a ‘God-centred dialogue.’”

—Henri Nouwen

In prayer we express to God our feelings, our thoughts, our sentiments. We wish to love and be loved, to be understood and to understand. Only God loves us perfectly, with an everlasting love. In prayer, we open our hearts and our minds to this God of love. And it is prayer that makes us one with the Lord. Through prayer we come to share more deeply in God’s life and in his love.”

—Pope John-Paul II in his address to young people at the SuperDome in New Orleans, September 12th 1987 (section 8 of his great address)

“Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it. When you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly—you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.”

—Letter of Saint James 3:16-4:3

“The heart of all prayer is ‘Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done.'”

—Fr Eamon Devlin, CM, part of a sermon at 8am Mass in St Peter’s, Phibsboro, Dublin, Ireland 12th October, 2014

“Why does God not always answer our prayers? We have a whole stock of answers for that. Maybe we did not have sufficient faith. Maybe we asked for the wrong thing, for something that was not good for us. Maybe God gave us what we asked for in some other way. God is a loving parent who knows better than we do what is good for us. Someday we will understand God’s deeper wisdom in not answering that prayer. CS Lewis once suggested that we will spend most of eternity thanking God for prayers that he did not answer! He is right.”

—Fr Ron Rolheiser

“Jesus tells us: ‘What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give …’ — the Pope paused and said — “and then we expect to hear he will give good things to you. But no,” he continued, “he doesn’t say that! He says that he will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! And this is tremendous.” 

—Pope Francis I, in his homily at his daily Mass 10 Oct 2013 as reported by the L’Osservatore Romano and posted on the Vatican website

“Be faithful to your daily prayers; they will keep your faith alive and vibrant.”

– Pope John-Paul II, as quoted in “Pope John Paul II: In My Own Words”, 1998, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, page 14, with the sub-heading “‘Message to Seminarians, Chicago, 1979”.

“Christ remains primary in your life only when he enjoys the first place in your mind and heart.
Thus you must continuously unite yourself to him in prayer…. Without prayer there can be no joy, no hope, no peace. For prayer is what keeps us in touch with Christ.”

– Pope John-Paul II, as quoted in “Pope John Paul II: In My Own Words”, 1998, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, page 14, with the sub-heading “‘Message to Religious Women, Washington, D.C., 1979”

“Prayer is the key to the vitality of your life in Christ. Without prayer your faith and love will die.”

— Pope John-Paul II, as quoted in “Pope John Paul II: In My Own Words”, 1998, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, page 15, with the sub-heading “‘Meeting with Youth, New Orleans, 1987”.

“It is by prayer alone that we are brought into God’s presence, and maintained in it without interruption. You must then learn a species of prayer which may be exercised at all times… It is not the prayer of the head but of the heart…, which is not interrupted by the exercises of reason. Nothing can interrupt this prayer except disordered affection; and once we have enjoyed God, and the sweetness of his love, we shall find it impossible to relish aught but himself.”

— Madame Guyon, in her ‘A Very Short and Easy Method of Prayer’

“We learn in prayer…. Thus we may grow in the love of God, opening the door so that the Blessed Trinity may come and dwell within us, may illuminate, warm and guide our lives.

…. Prayer as a way of ‘accustoming’ oneself to being with God brings into being men and women who are NOT motivated by selfishness, by the desire to possess, or by the thirst for power, but by gratuitousness, by the desire to love, by the thirst to serve, in other words who are motivated by God; and only in this way is it possible to bring light to the darkness of the world.”

—Pope Benedict XVI (at a General Audience on 20 June, 2012, as reported in the 27th June English edition of L’Osservatore Romano)

“We begin to pray, believing that it is our own initiative that compels us to do so. Instead, we learn that it is always God’s initiative within us.”

—Pope John Paul II (‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope’)

“Whenever we look towards God, towards that mystery his Son will reveal, he is always first looking at us.”

— Sr Wendy Beckett, in her book ‘The Art of Christmas’, Redemptorist Publications, Hampshire, England, 2008 (ISBN 978-0-85231-354-1)(page 9, part of a reflection on the painting ‘Annunciation’ by El Greco)

“As Christians we pray to God ‘through Christ’ and in trying to answer that prayer, God respects the Incarnation, namely, that God’s power is now partially dependent upon human action….  To pray as a Christian demands concrete involvement in trying to bring about what is pleaded for in the prayer.”

—Fr Ron Rolheiser

“Prayer makes your hearts bigger, until it is capable of containing the gift of God himself.”

—Mother Teresa

“Praying always lifts us out of our worries and concerns. It makes us rise above everything that hurts, upsets or disappoints us, and helps to put ourselves in the place of others, in their shoes.”

—Pope Francis, in his Mass for Families, at the Parque Samanes, a huge shopping mall, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, July 6th 2015

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to his voice in the depths of our hearts.”

—Mother Teresa

“I declare to you in all truth that no lovelier offering can be made to the Almighty God than a truly humble and obedient heart. In a single instant a man can, by means of obedience and giving up of his own will to God, be made so humble that he will be led directly to God — more directly than if he spent ten years in practising high devotions.”

—Father John Tauler, OP (a German Dominican priest, popular preacher, and mystical theologian), as quoted on page 90 of the July 2012 Magnificat booklet

  • “You do not ask for sacrifice and offering but an open ear.” (Psalm 39:6)
  • “Pay attention, come to me, listen and your soul will live.” (Isaiah 55:3)
  • “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice.” (Jesus in John 10:27)
  • “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” (Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:10)

—Various sayings from the Bible

“I tried as hard as I could to keep Jesus Christ, our God and our Lord, present within me and that was my way of prayer (page 38)…. If the soul is not occupied and love has nothing present with which to be engaged, the soul is left as though without support or exercise, and the solitude and dryness is very troublesome, and the battle with one’s thoughts extraordinary.” (page 39)

—St Teresa of Avila, in her ‘Book of Life’ as quoted on page38 and 39 of “A Little Book of Teresa of Avila”, the Columba Press, Blackrock, County Dublin, 2003, compiled by Don Mullan

“One need not say much to pray well. We know that Jesus is there in the tabernacle: let us open our hearts to him, let us rejoice in his sacred presence. That is the best prayer.”

—The Curé d’Ars, St John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests, as quoted by St. Benedict in 2009 letter proclaiming a year for priests

“The crisis of the prayer life of many Christians today is that, while our minds maybe filled with ideas of God, our hearts remain far from him. Real prayer comes from the heart.”

—Henri Nouwen

“Prayer is an exercise of love, and it would be incorrect to think that if there is no time for solitude there is no prayer at all.”

—St Teresa of Avila, in her ‘Book of Life’ as quoted on page 48 of “A Little Book of Teresa of Avila”, the Columba Press, Blackrock, County Dublin, 2003, compiled by Don Mullan

“My secret is a very simple one: I pray. To pray to Christ is to love him.”

—Mother Teresa

“‘Love your enemies’—Jesus (Lk 6:27). There is no prayer as powerful as the prayer for our enemies. But it’s also the most difficult prayer because it is the most contrary to our impulses.”

—Henri Nouwen

“Let us always pray for one another.  Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great spirit of fraternity.”

Pope Francis I, in his first speech as Pope minutes after being elected Pope, 13th March 2013

“Silence will teach us a lot. It will teach us to speak with Christ and to speak joyfully to our brothers and sisters.”

—Mother Teresa

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come….. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!” (Mk 13:33-37)

It can be very hard to do nothing. We prefer not to ask deeper questions, so we distract ourselves: parties, weekends away… so much of it is about nothing. Filling our time. Advent could be seen as a time to do nothing; it’s the opposite: buying, rushing… We’ve fooled ourselves into putting passion into things that don’t matter. Today (in Mark’s gospel above) Jesus asks us to stay with the silence. And be aware of ourselves in the emptiness and awkwardness and let God’s word sink into us.”

— Fr Eamon Devlin, CM, sermon in St Peter’s Church, Phibsboro, Dublin, First Sunday of Advent, November 2011

“Man achieves the fullness of prayer not when he expresses himself, but when he lets God be most fully present in prayer.”

— Pope John Paul II (‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope’)

“The way of the world-without-God is to stay on the surface; possessions, prestige, power and competitiveness are surface realities. The way of Jesus is deeper, it invites us down to the level of heart and spirit. There is a space down there in each of us that only God can fill. In that deep space, we hunger.

During prayer, we let that hunger become conscious. The food that matches this deep hunger is relationship with Jesus in faith. Jesus is offering this relationship; he wants us to have a conscious relationship with himself. It is as if he is saying to each of us, ‘Believe, come into the circle of relationship with me. It will satisfy your deepest hunger. You are made for this. It is worth working at.’

During personal prayer you ‘cross over to the other side’ – not of the Lake of Galilee, but of yourself. You reach down to your authentic self. You let your deepest hunger become conscious. You go over also to God’s side. Your journey leads you to Jesus, who gives you himself in deep friendship.

Prayer means idleness for God, emptiness before God, a vacation or holiday with God. The time you spend in prayer is time put beyond usefulness to yourself. Prayer is not useful: it is something of a different order. What you bring to prayer is just yourself and your time and your desire to be with God: you come with your availability. If you, for your part, are going to be less busy, and even idle, this suggests that God is the main actor in your prayer, and what happens in prayer is God’s agenda. God is the artist; you are the canvas or the shapeless block of wood which will be transformed by divine action. (Adapted from Finbarr Lynch: When You Pray. Dublin: Messenger Publications, 2012).”

— The SacredSpace.ie website: ‘Something to think and pray about this week’ section (24th October, 2012)

“The ‘Our Father’ is a prayer of petition. With this prayer the Lord teaches us the priorities of our prayer and cleanses and purifies our desires and in this way he cleanses and purifies our hearts….
There is also cause for thanksgiving and if we pay a little attention we see that we receive very many good things from God. He is so good to us that it is right and necessary to say ‘thank you’.
And our prayer should also be a prayer of praise: if our hearts are open in spite of all the problems we see the beauty of his creation, the goodness that is revealed in his creation.
Therefore we must not only ask but also praise and give thanks, only in this way is our prayer complete.”

— Pope Benedict XVI (at a General Audience on 20 June, 2012, as reported in the 27th June English edition of L’Osservatore Romano)

“Our need for prayer… There is no way to stay in touch with one’s soul and to keep a balance there, outside of regular private prayer. If you do not pray you will inevitably become either depressed or inflated—or bounce back and forth between the two. Only prayer can provide for you that fine line (spiritual, psychological, and emotional) between depression and inflation. If you do not believe in God and the value of religious prayer, then practice some form of active imagination or meditation. If you do not pray, you will either be habitually depressed or obsessed with your own ego.”

— Fr Ron Rolheiser

“The ‘Our Father’ aims to form our being, to train us in the inner attitude of Jesus…. Jesus’ entire ministry arises from his prayer, and is sustained by it.”

—Pope Benedict XVI in his first book as Pope: ‘Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration’, 2007, page 132 of the London: Bloomsbury Publishing edition

“Without prayer the entire commitment to the apostolate and to charity is reduced to activism….

Prayer does not mean isolating oneself from the world and from its contradictions, as Peter wanted to do on Mount Tabor; rather, prayer leads back to the journey and to action. “The Christian life”, I wrote in my Message for this Lent, “consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love.””

— Pope Benedict XVI in his last weekly Angelus address as Pope to an audience in St Peter’s Square on 24th February, 2013

“I cannot but notice that Christ Our Lord had a distinct attraction for private prayer. I can recall only two occasions when He shared His prayer with others. One was when He taught us the Our Father. The other He employed in the presence of His apostles at the last supper, when He gave us the incomparable lengthy prayer for which we can never thank St. John sufficiently.
But what an insistence He places on private prayer! Let me quote some relevant texts, almost at random, to show this. ‘Jesus, rising very early in the morning, went into a desert place and there He prayed.’ ‘Having dismissed the crowd He went up into the mountain to pray.’ ‘When it was evening, He was there alone and He spent the whole night in the prayer of God.’ He spent forty days alone in the desert. In the garden of Gethsemane He withdrew from His disciples in order to pray alone.”

— Fr Robert Nash, SJ, in ‘My Last Book’, 1983, Dun Laoghaire: The Glendale Press

“Dear young people, if you wish to discover and to live faithfully the form of life to which the Lord is calling each of you, you must remain in his love as his friends. And how do we preserve friendship except through frequent contact, conversation, being together in good times and bad? Saint Teresa of Jesus used to say that prayer is just such “friendly contact, often spending time alone with the one who we know loves us” (cf. Autobiography, 8).”

— Pope Benedict XVI, part of a Prayer Vigil during World Youth Day in Madrid, 20th August 2011

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

—Jesus (Matthew 6:6-8)

“This is the reason for prayer…: the birth always of good works, good works.”

— St Teresa of Avila, in her ‘The Interior Castle’ as quoted on page 99 of “A Little Book of Teresa of Avila”, the Columba Press, Blackrock, County Dublin, 2003, compiled by Don Mullan

“If you want God to take possession of you, then you are praying. That is all that prayer is… Ask yourself: what do I really want when I pray? Do I want to be possessed by God?… Where we want to go is not to the point; it is where God wants to take us. All that is in our power is choice…. Prayer is as simple as conversation between friends…. The essential act of prayer is to stand unprotected before God. What will God do? He will take possession of us. That he should do this is the whole purpose of life…. Bring yourself in whatever state you are and offer that to God….

We cannot say prayers at all unless we know also the prayer of silence. In silent prayer there are no words and hence no thoughts. We are still. This silence is nothing to be afraid of. Five or ten minutes, whatever can be spared: you are just there to stand in his presence and let him take possession of you. Whether you are aware of that presence does not matter. God is there, whatever your feelings, just as Jesus knew God was there even when he felt abandoned on the cross….

We say to him: ‘If you want to, you can make me clean.’ But he answers, ‘I do want to—but do you?’ That wanting is the very crux of the matter….

There is a tendency for people to say that they have no time for prayer… many things that are pleasant and profitable—tv programmes, books, conversations—may have to be sacrificed at times. But you will make this and any other sacrifice if you hunger and thirst for God to possess you, and this is my whole point. There is time enough for what matters supremely to us, and there always will be… most of us can manage a ten‑minute silence. This concentrated time when you try to put aside all else and simply be there for God is the proof, as it were, of your desire to pray…

You pray for God’s sake; you are there for him to look on you, to love you….

When Jesus was asked by the apostles to teach them how to pray, he did not tell them to do as he did, which was apparently to go into a lonely place and be still. Rather, he gave them words—the ‘Our Father’—which spell out in very simple terms the attitudes that we should bring to prayer. It is the desires behind the words that make this prayer so significant…. Rote prayer is not prayer at all…. Prayer is essentially an attitude….

I think there are different levels of prayer. The deepest level is that wordless union with God that is indescribable. Has everybody not experienced a moment when beauty or wonder touched them at a depth… Then there is the level (where) we are in church, or we are on our knees, and we are, as the catechism says, ‘directing the mind and heart to God.’ Most commonly we are petitioning, but also we can be glorying, or thanking, or simply telling God how we feel. (Telling God that you have a cold and are greatly tempted to impatience is perfectly valid prayer.)… A less structured level is what I would call spiritual talk. Here you are not directly addressing God, but are engaged in the mystery of what he is… If we are truly oriented towards God then our slightest activities—shaving, reading the newspaper, putting out the cat, the companionship of friends and all that makes leisure pleasurable—are a form of prayer. One might call this the lowest level of prayer and, of itself, it will not sustain us. But then it is not expected to. An attitude that seeks God as primary reality will always move deeper and deeper to the heart of prayer….

Perhaps of all the advice one can receive about prayer, this is the most crucial: We learn to pray by praying…. To (begin to) pray is by no means easy. It will become easy or, at least, easier in time. If we persevere long enough it may even become instinctive, the way we function, but it does not start like that. It starts with making resolutions, imposing order when we might like the pleasure of disorder, doing whatever is necessary to align ourselves with God. It may take years before we have the habit of prayer, as it were. But if we want it we will most certainly be given it….

If I had to suggest one prayer—we are talking of words here—that will always strengthen us and bring us peace, I would offer simply the word ‘Jesus’….

The real meaning of any petition is to be given grace to accept what happens….

If we are to pray with any seriousness, we must read Scripture. It is the Word of God. But if we are to recognise Jesus in Scripture, we need his grace. The two complement each other…. Not to pray, not to be a true Christian, is to declare a reluctance to live life to the full. It is a choice of a small, warm, selfish life. However seductive the comfort of it is, it is the choice of a fool. The great life that is possible in God has infinitely more to offer. It would be like Rembrandt refusing to paint because he could live on his wife’s money. We can see what a diminishment that would be: here was a man created to be a great artist. Yet, in a way, we are all created to be great artists, artists of a life, the one sole life that is possible with God’s grace for each of us uniquely. Only in prayer is it possible for God to draw us out of the restrictions which we have unconsciously chosen….

Some people get a great deal of emotional support from their prayer. Others get nothing. Either way, comforting prayer or stark prayer is equally real, equally blessed. I cannot tell you how passionately I would like to help people realise that what we feel does not essentially matter. This is especially true of prayer. I write this with a sinking feeling that most of you will not believe me; feelings come and go; any relationship, whether with God or man that has only feeling to support it is in trouble. When the feeling goes (and it will), what have you left? Nothing. Whereas if you have made a rational choice and cling to it, what you have endures…. All too often people say, ‘I was too sick to pray,’ or ‘I was too worried to pray.’ Rather we should say, ‘My prayer today is of a sick and worried person; when we pray we do not step out of the real world. It is only true prayer if we are completely within our own context, in all its grubbiness and incoherence and uncertainty….

There have been times when there has been a belief in possession by the devil, the evil spirit. We who cling to Jesus believe in possession by God, the Holy Spirit. However poor and humble our prayer, this is its aim: that God will take possession of us, live within us, give his love to the world through us.”

— Sister Wendy Beckett in ‘Sister Wendy On Prayer’

“We must consult God to learn his language and ask that he himself speak in us and through us.”

— Saint Vincent de Paul XII:13 as found at http://vinformation.famvin.org/vincentian-quotes/#jp-carousel-18983 in June 2017

“… Or is it (prayer) all still in your head? Ask God to open your heart.”

— Fr Eamon Devlin, CM, part of a sermon at 8am Mass in St Peter’s, Phibsboro, Dublin, Ireland 12th October, 2014

“Prayer fastens the soul to God, making it one with his will through the deep inward working of the Holy Spirit. So he says this, ‘Pray inwardly, even though you feel no joy in it. For it does good, though you feel nothing, see nothing, yes, even though you think you cannot pray. For when you are dry and empty, sick and weak, your prayers please me, though there be little enough to please you. All believing prayer is precious in my sight.’ God accepts the good-will and work of his servants, no matter how we feel.”

— Julian of Norwich, the female 14th Century mystic, who wrote the first book in English by a female, ‘The Revelations of Divine Love’ (quote taken from julianofnorwich.org December 2012)

“May God bless you and don’t forget to pray for me. If some of you don’t pray because you don’t believe or it goes against your conscience, please send positive vibes my way.”

— Pope Francis talking informally to photographers and journalists on June 8th, 2015 (Journalism Day in Argentina, on a day Argentinian journalists were covering a meeting with the Argentine President) as reported in print and video by RomeReports.com

“I ask you, please, to pray for me. If some of you are unable to pray, with all respect, I ask you to send me your good thoughts and energy.”

— Pope Francis with a similarly worded request to the above request, this time at the end of his Address to the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, Santa Cruz de la Sierrra, Bolivia, 9th July 2015

“Look to Jesus, the living One, and repeat what the Apostles asked: ‘Lord, teach us how to pray.’ Prayer will be the salt that gives flavour to your lives, and leads you to him, humanity’s true light.”

— Pope John-Paul II, 17th World Youth Day, 2002, Evening Vigil, Opening Greeting

“Dear young people, if you wish to discover and to live faithfully the form of life to which the Lord is calling each of you, you must remain in his love as his friends. And how do we preserve friendship except through frequent contact, conversation, being together in good times and bad? Saint Teresa of Jesus used to say that prayer is just such “friendly contact, often spending time alone with the one who we know loves us” (cf. Autobiography, 8).”
— Pope Benedict XVI, part of a Prayer Vigil during World Youth Day in Madrid, 20th August 2011

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