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Patti Maguire Armstrong witnesses the power of turning to prayer rather than worry, and recommends two books to help you get started.

Worry can feel like a prayer. After all, God is listening, right? But when we actually pray rather than just relying on God to overhear us, worry subsides replaced with the presence of God. Once I prayed very little. I can see clearly now how that was to my own determent. These days, even if there is turmoil, prayer is my first instinct, and it leads me through every storm.

Fr. Jacques Philippe whose books on prayer and spirituality are printed in 18 languages writes in Thirsting for Prayer, “Faithfulness to prayer is a path of freedom.” He explains that prayer deepens our understanding of God and ourselves and keeps God, rather than ourselves, at the center of our life.


Thirsting for Prayer


Fr. Philippe noted that he writes on prayer because the hunger and need for prayer in our world impels him to do so.

I often go to preach retreats in many different countries, and I am struck by the thirst for prayer that is apparent today among so many people … but also by the need that exists for definite signposts to ensure their perseverance.


Make Time

Praying well, according to Fr. Philippe, begins by making time for it. “Without faithfulness to our appointments with prayer, by contrast, there is a serious risk that our lives may never acquire any coherent meaning,” he wrote. He stated that prayer gives birth to all the renewals, healings, and transformations that we all want for society today. “This world of ours is very sick, and only contact with heaven will be able to cure it,” he explained. “The most useful thing for the Church to do today is to give people a thirst for prayer and teach them to pray.”

When we pray, God can freely enter our lives and act in them, working the marvels of his grace according to Fr. Philippe, although he acknowledges our lives are all different. “I know lay people fully taken up by their family and work commitments who in twenty minutes of daily prayer receive as many graces as monks who pray for five hours a day,” he wrote.

God himself is inviting us to prayer, says Fr. Philippe, but he points out that while man searches for God, God seeks out man even more actively. With that in mind, he warns that we risk becoming discouraged at some stage if we just pray for the sake of the benefits we hope to obtain because benefits are neither instantaneous nor measurable. “God knows what is good for us, and that should be enough for us,” he said. “We ought not to take a utilitarian view of prayer, reducing it to questions of results and profits; that would distort it completely. God invites us, so to speak, to 'waste time' on him, and that is enough.” Yet, paradoxically, Fr. Philippe says that the more our prayer is done freely–not to get something out of it–the more it will bear fruit.


How Do We Pray?

As a child and young adult, I mostly prayed by reciting a few rote prayers. There is much more to prayer, however, and it doesn’t take a degree in theology or an advanced state of our soul to know and practice all kinds of prayer.

The Handy Little Guide to Prayer by Barb Szyszkiewicz makes it easy. This author, mom, wife, and Secular Franciscan leads us to lift our minds and our hearts to God through both personal and community prayer. She includes the Mass, prayers of the Church, adoration, meditation, music, art, journaling, and inspiration from Scripture and the saints.


The Handy Little Guide to Prayer


By expressing ourselves to God, Szyszkiewicz explains that it “bonds us to him more closely.” She explaines:

In our private supplication and intercessory prayer, we can also ask the angels and saints to bring our prayers before God. We can use our own words, formal prayers of the Church, or a combination. Just as we ask our family and friends to pray for us in times of crisis or trouble, we can and should enlist the aid of those in heaven who are already close to God.

The encouraging news is: “You will always get an answer,” Szyszkiewicz assures us. “It will not always be the answer you want, but God knows what you need.” She concludes,

Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated. Ask, seek, and knock. Give glory to God and share what’s in your heart.


Prayer is a gift we give ourselves because it opens up the channels of God’s blessings into our lives to calm and hold us. Books on prayer have deepened my spiritual life and are wonderful gifts to give to others. It is an investment in the highest relationship we can have, one with God leading us to put our trust in his abiding love.

Both authors recognize that weariness can come but explain that God is our source of energy, giving us true freedom and a foretaste of heaven as “he who seeks, finds,” as the Gospel assures us (Matthew 7:8).

Copyright 2021 Patti Maguire Armstrong
Image: Ben White benwhitephotography, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
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