Over the past few months, I have been reflecting a great deal about prayer, particularly about the Psalms which I reflect upon daily in the Divine Office.
Every priest is required to pray the breviary, which is comprised of several sections. One is the Office of Readings, which has three Psalms and two readings, one of which is Scripture, the other a selection from one of the Fathers of the Church or a Vatican Council II document.
Morning prayer consists of a hymn, three Psalms, a short reading and the Canticle of Zechariah (the Benedictus) as well as several prayer intentions for the needs of the whole Church and of particular groups.
There is also a daytime prayer, which includes three psalms, a short reading and a concluding prayer. Night prayer consists of an examination of conscience, a hymn, a Psalm, the Canticle of Simeon, and a concluding prayer, as well as a prayer to Our Lady.
The Liturgy of the Hours, as it is often called, is a wonderful practice not only for priests and deacons, but also for the laity. Some parishes offer morning and evening prayers.
But for me, the beauty and value of prayer are worship, petition, thanksgiving and, especially, praise to God through the inspirational words of the Psalms.
As St. Paul reminds us in Romans, Chapter 8, we do not know how to pray as we ought to, but the Spirit prays within us. … Praying the Psalms is the most obvious and simplest expressions of that reality. But prayer is not only recited, but always must be reflected upon. The Psalms have become for me prayers to be savored, to be recited slowly and reflectively, to make the inspired words of the Psalmist reflect my own sentiments, my own desires.
Prayer, my dear sisters and brothers, is not something that is complicated or esoteric, reserved only for monks, cloistered nuns and the clergy. All of us have been called by our Baptism to an interior, profound and remarkable relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are adopted children of the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus the Son, and recipients of the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer is the expression of that unique relationship of love and friendship between God and ourselves. God overwhelmingly loves us. And so we express that remarkable relationship in words, in thinking, in action, and in silence.
Prayer can be done at any time, at any place. Sometimes it can be done reflectively while driving in our cars. It is good not to turn on the radio immediately after turning the ignition. Our automobiles can provide us with a time of silent reflection as we go about our daily errands or driving to work and back. At home, we too often have the noise of radio or television in the background. Silence is a great aid to prayer.
I have been blessed with the hours I have to be on dialysis. I have, thanks to God’s grace, been able to pray the Liturgy of the Hours while at dialysis. I have been greatly enriched by having so much time to reflect on each Psalm, to join my own sentiments with that of the Psalmist. But with a little bit of effort each one of us can discover, even in the midst of our busyness, the special moments of quiet reflection when we can turn our thoughts to the God who loves us.
Sometimes we may not think God loves us very much, as we focus on problems and difficulties. Sometime we may feel God is indifferent or far away and certainly not attentive to our situation. Yet I am firmly convinced that once we begin to draw closer to God in thought, word and silence, we will be surprised to discover how near, close, and concerned God is.
My dear friends, God has given us the power to be in an intimate, loving relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit. Please do not ignore or forget that great gift, the reality that God does indeed overwhelmingly love us and desires to draw us ever closer.