RMC series


Let me begin with a confession.

Many years ago, as a young and inexperienced newly ordained priest, I

was approached by a member of my parish youth group who asked me

two simple questions: “Father, how do you pray and can you teach me

to pray?”. To my shame, all I did was reach up to the bookshelf and

hand him a book about prayer. That is not what he asked me; . his

questions were more personal, more intimate.

I recall the occasion when Jesus went off to pray alone and after

he returned, his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And so he did,

beginning with the greatest insight of all, that in prayer we can and must

call on God as “Our Father”.

Prayer is as important to the human spirit as air is to the lungs and food

is to the stomach. People who do not eat, starve. Likewise, people who do

not pray are left spiritually under-nourished. We suffer from spiritual

malnutrition if we do not set aside time to be with and to listen to God in

prayer. Sure, many of us pray in the morning or evening. But

if we are honest, we may have to admit that these prayers have become

routine and rushed—. They have no heart.

To put heart into prayer, spiritual writers today emphasize the importance

of breathing. That simply means that our breath and God’s

breath inter-penetrate through the working of the Holy Spirit, who as the

Bible teaches us, is the “Ruah Elohim” (Hebrew), the very Breadth of God.

It all began when God breathed life into clay. God’s breath puts life into

us. This is the purpose of prayer: to come alive, to sing of the glory of

God, to trust in the mercy and providence of God, and above all, to live

our life in God!

The spiritual writer, Daniel O’Leary puts it this way: “We come into

this world on the breath of God’s compassion, and we go out of this world

on the breath of God’s mercy.”

Since my failure as a newly ordained priest in dealing with a young man

who asked me to help him to pray, I have come to value the importance

of humility, simplicity, and openness in teaching prayer. I say humility

because it is not my work. Prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit whom St

Paul tells us, ‘“comes to help us in our weakness and prays within us with

sighs too deep for words.’”

True prayer is always a gift of the Holy Spirit, leading us, teaching us,

praying in us, and using us to pray for others.

Fr. Larry Kaufmann CSsR