Prayer: More than ever
Lent is a time for prayer more than ever. There are many beautiful expressions of our prayer during Lent.
Certainly the devotion of the Stations of the Cross is excellent to draw us into a meditative closeness with Jesus, Who suffered and died for us to be free. It more than worthwhile to spend time with these crucial events in salvation history. However, some just come and recite the prayers out of the book; I would encourage you all to do something a little more involved: use your imagination. Now, I'm not trying to get you to invent anything new about the stations or come up with the 18th Station where Jesus gets into a spaceship, nor should you let your mind run rampant in thinking any strange thing which might pop in. Instead, employ your imagination religiously. Focus your mind on the station. See the scene in your mind. Hear the cries of the crowd, the cries of His mother. Smell the aggression of the guards. Sense the humidity rising. Be aware of the dusk kicked up and grating sound of the cross being pulled along. Examine the faces in the crowd, examine His face. Witness the drops of Precious Blood falling. Be there.
Fr. Wolf is bringing to our community a great integration into the prayer of the Church every Wednesday night of Lent: the Liturgy of the Hours (LOTH), which is the official prayer of the Church Universal. Everyday, bishops, priests, deacons, religious and some laity dedicate themselves to this very ancient form of prayer. The LOTH is based on the Jewish tradition, which Jesus prayed, of reciting the Psalms daily, drinking from the refreshing fount of the wisdom given to King David. Here you are united not just with fellow parishioner but also with the entire Church (militant here on earth and triumphant in heaven) and ages of countless voices bringing their praise and petition before the Almighty God.
Maybe it's time to upgrade your prayer into ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication). This acronym sums up the four major parts of any fully formed prayer.
Adoration: all of our prayers should begin with Whom we are speaking. "Sure, that's easy, Fr., it's God." And you are right. However, sometimes we skip too quickly over this by merely saying "dear God." To upgrade, spend a few more moments on Who God is. A simple way is to upgrade the address, e.g.: O Merciful Father Who gave us His Only Begotten Son in reparation for our transgressions. Another upgrade that takes a little more time to use part of or all of a litany of the Titles of God. In this first part of prayer, we are meditation on Who God is; He does not need this time, but we do. Above all, recall that this is God, Who made you in His image; don't pray to a god that you have made in your image.
Confession: this is not just like the sacrament. Instead, once we have established and firmly given proper adoration to God, we must identity ourselves before God. We confess that we are human after professing that He is God. We confess that we need Him. To upgrade, spend a little bit of time in identifying who you are in light of Him, e.g.: I come before You, knowing that I am have made mistakes and bad judgments; my faults are my own, and, though You owe to me nothing and I everything to you, I come to You in my need. Above all, have humility as you speak to the Creator of every star in the heavens.
Thanksgiving: lest you come off ungrateful for all that God has done for your and blessed you, spend a few moments recalling some major blessings, especially for an answered prayer and maybe even an unanswered prayer. After all, we have been immensely blessed with the gift of: life, the existence of the world, temperate climates, rain for growing food, an intellect to appreciate many of His wonders. To upgrade, think outside of the normal list of thanks into some more expansive ways that God has blessed you. Above all, don't forget that God doesn't owe us anything; everything good He does bestow on us is an unmerited act of love.
Supplication: this is the part that makes up the majority of most persons' prayers. Here it should be no more than a fourth of our time speaking to God, which says nothing of the even greater time we should be listening to Him. He is our heavenly Father Who cares a great deal for us and for our needs and wants. That is not to say however that we should act like entitled brats in His presence. Ever seen a kid throwing a temper tantrum when he didn't get his way, even if the thing he wanted was bad for him? We too don't always know how and for what to ask. God wants to bless us with those things which will help us to grow up in the spiritual life and become fully free as His sons and daughters. To upgrade, when asking something of the Lord, end your petition with "grant this, O Lord, only if it is for my supreme good or the supreme good of another...and help me to accept graciously Your will." Above all, remember that a love parent often refuses the child candy so that the child might grow strong on good foods instead of weak and unhealthy on sugar.
This Lent, now more than ever, give your prayer life an upgrade and draw closer to the Source of all goodness and light.