Why we don’t pray

Karna Lozoya

It’s Lent, which means it’s time to intensify our prayer lives.

As good Catholics, we know we should pray, yet we often find ourselves simply not praying.

Sure, we throw up a Hail Mary when we hear bad news, or we praise God when we see a beautiful sunrise, but are we developing regular, mature prayer habits?

The Denver Catholic staff came up with a few common reasons why we don’t pray as much as we should, and then turned to Father Scott Bailey, priest-secretary for Archbishop Samuel Aquila, for advice on how to get beyond the excuses and get praying.

Denver Catholic: We just don’t get the whole idea of prayer, and why we should pray.

Father Bailey: God doesn’t need our prayers – WE need them! The Christian life is about having a relationship with the Holy Trinity and our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we can’t have a relationship without conversation and quality time together. That’s what prayer is about.

Denver Catholic: We can’t sit still. It’s boring.

Father Bailey: With our fast-paced lives, it is difficult to stop and make time for prayer. And even when we do stop, it’s difficult to stay focused and sit still.

If you are trying to pray and you can’t stop thinking about something that happened at work, or a conversation you need to have tomorrow, or your to-do list, then bring those things to God. Tell him about the things on your mind – it gets them out of your head and into conversation with the Lord. Ask for his help with those things, and thank him for the blessings.

God doesn’t need our prayers – WE need them!”

Sometimes when I am in prayer, I find that I suddenly remember something important I need to do later in the day. So I have found it helpful to bring a pad of paper to my prayer time, so that I can write down those things that I will need to do or think about later.

If sitting still is a challenge for you, then don’t sit for prayer. Stand, pace the room, go for a walk, or pray while driving. We don’t need to sit still in order to talk with God.

Denver Catholic: We don’t know how. (And advice from Mother Teresa and St. Teresa of Avila isn’t helpful. We tried just looking at Jesus, and we got nothing).

Father Bailey: Keep it simple! Start by remembering that you are in the presence of God. Then take a few minutes to thank God for the abundant blessings in your life. Open up one of the Gospels or a letter of St. Paul – read until something stands out for you as an interesting point or challenge or consolation.

Tell the Lord what is in your heart – your thoughts, emotions, worries, frustrations, disappointments, questions, etc. Give God the chance to respond. Force yourself to be in silence and rest with him, knowing that he is with you always and that he loves you. Finish with gratitude!

Denver Catholic: Nothing happens. It’s a waste of time.

Father Bailey: The living God is never doing nothing! Being with God in prayer is like laying under the sun – we are soaking up the rays whether we know it or not. And if we lay in the sun long enough, we get a tan. Same thing with God – when we spend time with him in prayer, his Love changes us and makes us more like him.

Denver Catholic: It doesn’t work.

Father Bailey: We have to be careful to not treat prayer like it is a financial transaction, as if doing something in prayer earns us the thing that we want. The Lord wants us to ask for the things on our heart. And he even wants us to be persistent about it!

But if the Lord does not answer our prayers the way that we want him to, we rest in the knowledge that he is our loving Father and knows what is best for us. He will not give us a stone if we ask him for bread. We can trust in his Providence and fatherly care.

Featured image by Daniel Petty

COMING UP: Carmelite lived the cloistered life ‘to the full’

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In 1950, at the ripe age of 18, Sister Mona Claire of Our Lady entered religious life as a Carmelite of the Holy Spirit. For the next 67 years, she went on to live a cloistered life away from the world in deep prayer.

It would seem it was no coincidence, then, that she passed away on May 20 — the feast of Pentecost.

“For her to die on the feast of Pentecost — it’s our biggest solemnity next to Christmas because we’re the Carmel of the Holy Spirit,” said Mother Mary of Jesus, prioress of the discalced Carmelite nuns of Littleton. “Our blessed Lord really favored her, I think.”

Over 20 of Sister Mona’s 67 years as a Carmelite were spent as a secretary answering phone calls and responding to requests for prayers and Mass offerings. Sister Mona was also a talented seamstress and spent much of her time making clothes for the Sisters and altar linens.

Sister Mona’s most unique job was perhaps taking care of sheep, which the monastery had up until the 1980s, and her most beautiful work was likely her profound prayer life.

“She always prayed,” said Mother Mary. “Even in her last few days, if she said anything, it was a prayer.”

Mother Mary recalled that the doctor who attended to Sister Mona at the hospital after she experienced a fall shortly before she passed asked her to open her eyes, and she was unable to follow his commands.

“But I would say a prayer, and she’d finish it for me,” said Mother Mary. “I would say, ‘Praise be Jesus Christ,’ and she would say, ‘Now and forever.’ I think her last words were ‘Now and forever.’”

Mother Mary admired Sister Mona for her patience and efforts to please God, as well as her positive attitude in all circumstances.

“I noticed that even in the pain she was in when she was dying, she never moaned or anything,” said Mother Mary. “She never complained one little bit.”

Mother Mary believes it was a blessing that Sister Mona was able to remain so close to God even during her final days — a grace that likely stemmed from the consistent efforts she made to be close to him throughout her life.

“If you’re constantly corresponding with grace and praying, it’s going to come to you in those last moments,” said Mother Mary. “It will strengthen you for the journey. I think that’s what happened.”

Mother Mary witnessed graces showering down during on Sister Mona even during her funeral, particularly when Bishop Jorge Rodriguez blessed her coffin before it was lowered into the ground.

“There were turtle doves. You could hear turtle doves cooing,” not back and forth, but in unison, Mother Mary said. It reminded those in attendance of Song of Solomon 2, which mentions the voice of a turtledove in a chapter about the love of a bride groom.

The beauty of the moment didn’t go unnoticed, much like Sister Mona’s life of service.

“She was the loving and praying heart of the Church and the Carmel [community] here for almost 68 years,” said Mother Mary. “Everything she did was for souls and for our dear Lord’s greater glory and honor,” she said.

Mother Mary believes Sister Mona had a profound impact on the world, even though she had little contact with it.

“Having been in the convent as long as she was, she really impacted the diocese and the world with her ever-flowing prayers,” said Mother Mary. “It’s just the nature of cloistered life — and she lived it to the full.”