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: Five Hispanic-American saints perhaps you didn’t know

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The American continent has had its share of saints in the last five centuries. People will find St. Juan Diego, St. Rose of Lima or St. Martin de Porres among the saints who enjoy greater popular devotion. Yet September, named Hispanic Heritage Month, invites a deeper reflection on the lives of lesser-known saints who have deeply impacted different Latin-American countries through their Catholic faith and work, and whose example has the power to impact people anywhere around the world. Here are just a few perhaps you didn’t know.

St. Toribio de Mogrovejo
1538-1606
Peru

Born in Valladolid, Spain, Toribio was a pious young man and an outstanding law student. As a professor, his great reputation reached the ears of King Philip II, who eventually nominated him for the vacant Archdiocese of Lima, Peru, even though Toribio was not even a priest. The Pope accepted the king’s request despite the future saint’s protests. So, before the formal announcement, he was ordained a priest, and a few months later, a bishop. He walked across his archdiocese evangelizing the natives and is said to have baptized nearly half a million people, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres. He learned the local dialects, produced a trilingual catechism, fought for the rights of the natives, and made evangelization a major theme of his episcopacy. Moreover, he worked devotedly for an archdiocesan reform after realizing that diocesan priests were involved in impurities and scandals. He predicted the date and hour of his death and is buried in the cathedral of Lima, Peru.

St. Mariana of Jesus Paredes
1618-1645
Ecuador

St. Mariana was born in Quito, modern-day Ecuador, and not only became the country’s first saint, but was also declared a national heroine by the Republic of Ecuador. As a little girl, Mariana showed a profound love for God and practiced long hours of prayer and mortification. She tried joining a religious order on two occasions, but various circumstances would not permit it. This led Mariana to realize that God was calling her to holiness in the world. She built a room next to her sister’s house and devoted herself to prayer and penance, living miraculously only off the Eucharist. She was known to possess the gifts of counsel and prophecy. In 1645, earthquakes and epidemics broke out in Quito, and she offered her life and sufferings for their end. They stopped after she made her offering. On the day of her death, a lily is said to have bloomed from the blood that was drawn out and poured in a flowerpot, earning her the title of “The Lily of Quito.”

St. Theresa of Los Andes
1900-1920
Chile

St. Theresa of Jesus of Los Andes was Chile’s first saint and the first Discalced Carmelite to be canonized outside of Europe. Born as Juana, the future saint was known to struggle with her temperament as a child. She was proud, selfish and stubborn. She became deeply attracted to God at the age six, and her extraordinary intelligence allowed her to understand the seriousness of receiving First Communion. Juana changed her life and became a completely different person by the age of 10, practicing mortification and deep prayer. At age 14, she decided to become a Discalced Carmelite and received the name of Theresa of Jesus. Deeply in love with Christ, the young and humble religious told her confessor that Jesus told her she would die soon, something she accepted with joy and faith. Shortly thereafter, Theresa contracted typhus and died at the age of 19. Although she was 6 months short of finishing her novitiate, she was able to profess vows “in danger of death.” Around 100,000 pilgrims visit her shrine in Los Andes annually.

St. Laura Montoya
1874-1949
Colombia

After Laura’s father died in war when she was only a child, she was forced to live with different family members in a state of poverty. This reality kept her from receiving formal education during her childhood. What no one expected is that one day she would become Colombia’s first saint. Her aunt enrolled her in a school at the age of 16, so she would become a teacher and make a living for herself. She learned quickly and became a great writer, educator and leader. She was a pious woman and wished to devote herself to the evangelization of the natives. As she prepared to write Pope Pius X for help, she received the pope’s new Encyclical Lacrymabili Statu, on the deplorable condition of Indians in America. Laura saw it as a confirmation from God and founded the Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart and St. Catherine of Siena, working for the evangelization of natives and fighting or their behalf to be seen as children of God.

St. Manuel Morales
1898-1926
Mexico

Manuel was a layman and one of many martyrs from Mexico’s Cristero War in the 1920s. He joined the seminary as a teen but had to abandon this dream in order to support his family financially. He became a baker, married and had three children. This change, however, did not prevent him from bearing witness to the faith publicly. He became the president of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty, which was being threatened by the administration of President Plutarco Elías Calles. Morales and two other leaders from the organization were taken prisoners as they discussed how to free a friend priest from imprisonment through legal means. They were beaten, tortured and then killed for not renouncing to their faith. Before the firing squad, the priest begged the soldiers to forgive Morales because he had a family. Morales responded, “I am dying for God, and God will take care of my children.” His last words were, “Long live Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe!”