Pray with more than thoughts and words

By | September 28, 2011

While two of the Sunday readings center on the image of the vineyard, it is the opening focus in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians that I’d like to consider. “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”

Our parents encouraged us to ask God for what we needed, but not to forget to say, “I’m sorry,” or to thank God for our blessings. We continue to use several forms of prayer today: doxology (praise of God), gratitude, expressions of repentance, and most often, requests for things we need and the intercession we make for others and their needs.

The opening prayer or collect of the Mass is a prayer of petition addressed to the Father, but it is more than petition. We begin by naming God and some attributes of God. This week we hear: “Almighty and eternal God, Father of the world to come, your goodness is beyond what our spirits can touch and your strength is more than the mind can bear.” This is followed by the specific request: “Lead us to seek beyond our reach and give us the courage to stand before your truth.” The conclusion reflects our Trinitarian belief: “We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.” We express the belief in the divinity of Christ and his role as mediator.

Within the Liturgy of the Word, we sing a responsorial psalm. Psalms are usually prayers of praise and thanks. However, there are also laments. There are confessions of sinfulness or expressions of repentance, but also something that sounds like “holy complaining” as the psalmist expresses the sense that God seems far away or that God is not paying attention to us.

Sometimes our prayer is not expressed in words but in SILENCE as we wait upon the Lord or rest in God, prepare to listen or meditate upon what we’ve heard, or simply as a response to the mystery of God.

Besides the prayers within our minds and those articulated by our lips, we pray with our bodies. Posture expresses attentiveness, respect, reverence and awe and wonder in God’s presence. Adoration can be expressed by a bow, genuflection, kneeling or even prostration. During the creed we bow during the words, “by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” We kneel during the eucharistic prayer expressing our reverence for Christ’s sacrifice. Standing is a posture of respect, so we stand during the collect, the prayer over the gifts and the prayer after communion.

This week perhaps we can be more attentive to the ways our bodies pray and be more careful about our gestures and posture.

Sr. Rehrauer is the diocesan director of Evangelization, Living Justice and Worship.

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