Nag, nag, nag.
Can’t you just hear him? That judge in Jesus’ story about the widow and her rights? “Oh no, here she comes again. Why can’t that woman go away and leave me alone?”
Of course, Jesus’ point wasn’t about nagging, but about persisting in prayer and believing that God is always listening.
God knows our wants and needs, long before we voice them. However, we — ourselves — need to voice them. We need to realize our need for God, and prayer serves to remind us to turn to him and trust him. However, in our busy world, we often need things that help remind us to turn to God.
So what reminds you of prayer?
Well, at Mass, there are the obvious things: a big one is when the priest says, “Let us pray.” This call to prayer happens often during each Mass. Then there are the various prayers and hymns to draw us in.
Yet reminders to pray start long before Mass does. When we enter church, we bless ourselves with holy water, making the “sign of the cross.” For most Catholics, that simple gesture places us in “prayer mode.” (The sign of the cross is a prayer all by itself — professing belief in the Trinity.)
The same is true with the actions of genuflecting before entering a pew and of kneeling — both before and during Mass. It’s amazing how our bodily posture can lead us right into prayer.
If there’s incense at the Mass, the aroma of burning charcoal and the sight of the rising smoke naturally draw our thoughts upward to God.
Watching the priest at Mass raise his hands in prayer reminds us to place ourselves before God, just as Moses kept his arms raised all day when God’s people faced battle.
And what if, as often happens even to the best of us, our attention wanders? There are other reminders of prayer around us: statues of kneeling angels or stained glass of praying saints; a book of prayer intentions; prayers in the back of the missalettes; the rosary in the fingers of someone nearby; flickering flames on the votive candles. Even the high vaulted ceilings in many of our churches draw eyes upwards — so that, while we’re looking up, we might think of heaven.
It almost seems as if everything we look at in church could serve as a reminder that turns our minds to prayer. Of course, it’s not just in church. The psalmist today speaks of lifting his eyes, seeing the mountains and longing for God. What, outside of church, draws your mind and heart toward prayer? Remember, whatever it is, take advantage of that reminder to pray.
After all, God is always listening.
Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of “Linking Your Beads: The Rosary’s History, Mysteries and Prayers.”