Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving are the spiritual exercises that we engage in during Lent. But do we understand the significance of these exercises?
Prayer is defined as raising the mind and heart to God. If we truly believe in God, why is it so hard to pray and why do we need to raise our minds and hearts to God if we are already in God’s presence? We need to pray because we are not always conscious that we are in God’s presence. Many of us go about our lives as though God does not exist or exists only in certain places or at certain times. It is important for us to pray so as to be united with God at all times. This takes continuous effort. This is what Lent is, that sustained period of time when we pray continuously so the fruits of prayer can be manifested in our lives.
St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross tell us that there are stages of prayer and the ultimate goal of prayer is perfect union with God. This takes discipline and perseverance. One of the stages is called ‘the dark night of the soul’; this is when perseverance is most needed. We will all walk these stages, whether we are aware of it or not, as our relationship with God grows and develops.
There are many different forms of prayer and we should try to learn and use them to enrich our prayer lives. They include Lectio Divina, Imaginative Contemplation, Guided Meditation, Journalling, Prayer of Silence, Adoration, Devotions, Liturgical Prayer, Holy Mass, etc. We may become quite comfortable with some forms but should not limit ourselves to them.
The following are some suggestions for different ways of praying during Lent.
The Holy Mass is the highest form of prayer. Learn more about the meaning of the Mass so as to participate more fully in it. This will transcend Lent and the grace of the Mass will transform our lives.
The Divine Office
Like the Mass, the Divine Office unites us with the entire Church since these prayers are said throughout the world. Imagine millions of people praying The Benedictus throughout the day. This is the mystery of unity in Christ. We can start praying the Morning and Evening Prayer of the Church during Lent. This will unite us with the mystical body of Christ.
Stations of the Cross
Why not try to make the weekly Stations of the Cross. We should unite ourselves with Christ’s suffering at each station. Take one station and meditate on it during Lent and let this station enlighten and purify. Remember, Christ suffered for love of us and to unite us once again with the Father.
The Holy Rosary
Mary never left Jesus during His suffering and was with Him to the very end. It was at the cross that Jesus gave us His mother. She will help us on our journey during Lent. Pray and meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary each day and Mary will help us to come into perfect union with God.
The ‘Word’ (God) became flesh and dwelt amongst us. “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood will have life in me.” Lectio Divina or sacred reading of Scripture allows us to encounter God and to see our life’s story in His story. As we read, meditate, pray and contemplate, the Word begins to take root in our lives and live in us. It becomes part of our thoughts, words and actions. This Lent let us learn this form of prayer or any other prayer that allows us to interact with Scripture.
Prayer should enrich our lives; it can reveal who we are to ourselves and help us to live as children of God. It allows God to speak in our hearts, and it is an adventure of a lifetime! Prayer takes us to unimagined places and it gives experiences that we cannot explain. Being with God is the most peaceful, joyous and fulfilling experience one can have. Make this Lent a prayerful one. Most importantly, make time for prayer.
– Bernadette Gopaul-Ramkhalawan, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office