What is Prayer and How Should We Pray?


by Father Paul O’Sullivan, How to be Happy, How to be Holy

It is not necessary to be a saint to enjoy prayer. Everyone who knows how to pray finds intense delight in prayer. To pray well demands no hard or difficult effort, nothing that the ordinary Christian cannot do with pleasure if only he knows how to do it.

First of all, what is prayer and how should we pray?

Prayer is certainly not the mere repetition of words without giving any attention to their meaning though, unfortunately, this is the way that thousands of otherwise good Christians are praying every day.

What then is prayer? Prayer is nothing else than talking to God, conversing with God Himself. When we kneel down and make the Sign of the Cross reverently, God at once turns to us and gives us all His attention as fully as if there was no one else in existence.

Can this be true? It is absolutely true, and as a consequence, when we pray we are enjoying an intimate, personal conversation with God Almighty. What a joy! What a privilege! What an immense consolation! We are speaking to God as truly and as really as Moses spoke to Him on Mount Sinai, as truly, as lovingly as Peter and John and Magdalene when He was on earth.

True, we do not see God with the eyes of our body, but we are perfectly sure by our faith that God is really and truly listening to every word we are saying. Oh, if Christians would only grasp this glorious truth, what delight would they not have in prayer! This was the secret of the Saints, but it is a secret so clear and easy that anyone can understand it.

Why did the Saints love to pray? Just because they knew and they felt that they were talking to God. Therefore, far from being wearisome it was an immense joy for them to pray.

This then is the first clear idea we must have when praying, viz., that we are talking to God in the most real and true sense of that word. There is nothing clearer, easier to understand, nothing more certain.

The second great thought is that God has bound Himself most solemnly to hear our prayers. “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.”

What words could possibly be clearer? These and similar promises our Blessed Lord made over and over again. It is quite certain that we never send up a prayer to God lovingly and confidently that He does not hear, and that does not bring us a great grace in return. We never yet said one prayer, never yet sent up one cry to God that was not heard. Of this there can be no possible doubt.

Sometimes God may not give us what we ask because He sees that it would not be good for us, but undoubtedly in this case He will give us another and a better grace. This, too, is an idea that we must thoroughly understand.

A third truth which we must bear in mind is that every prayer we say with reverence and trust, such as any ordinary Christian can say, gives God immense glory and pleasure. What a joy it should be to feel that we are giving real joy to God. But does God really bother about us?

God does not only love us, but He most earnestly desires our love and affection in return. “Behold the Heart that loves men so much, but is so little loved by men.” These are His own very words addressed to each of us.

Fourthly, our prayers obtain for us many important graces and blessings which we shall never get and never enjoy if we do not ask for them. If a Christian believes these truths, as he is bound to do, is he not a madman if he omits his prayers?

Fifthly, all men desire happiness, all men seek happiness, all men work for happiness. Unfortunately, men seek happiness in a thousand different ways and never find it. They lose their time.

God alone gives happiness, as God alone gives life and health. Happiness is God’s greatest gift, for it embraces what is best for us. God, as we have said, promises to give us all good things if we ask for them. What can be easier than to ask God every day in our prayers for happiness? Why do not men ask God for happiness? They do not think.

True, it is not possible to have perfect happiness in this life, because we are in a vale of tears due to the sin of Adam and due to our own sins, which bring so much sorrow and suffering with them. However we can have a great measure of happiness in this life, and it is God and God alone who can and will give us this great measure of happiness if we confidently and lovingly ask Him for it.

There is no better, no surer way of attaining happiness than by praying for it. Men who do not pray for happiness must be very ignorant, or very foolish.

On the other hand, all of us have to face some suffering. No one can avoid suffering, sickness, pain and disappointments. But here again God helps us. No pain comes to us without God’s permission; not even a hair falls from our heads without His consent.

When God permits suffering He always helps us to bear it. He always gives a grace, a strength, a consolation which enables us to bear the cross He sends us. But once more, we must ask Him.

The very suffering He sends is a reminder to us to go to Him, to ask His help. In pain and sorrow and danger we run to God as the little child runs to its mother in the moment of danger.

One may ask, “But do we not see men in the world happy who do not pray to God?” God allows all in His infinite mercy and compassion a certain measure of the goods of this life. He makes His sun to shine on the just and the unjust, but the pleasure, the joys, the happiness of men who do not love God are full of bitterness and sadness.

Their lives are exposed to many and cruel disappointments, and in their sufferings they have no real comfort, they have no one to go to for consolation.

The good Christian knows that for every pain he has, he will have a great reward in Heaven. He knows that his sufferings are nothing else than a part in the sufferings and Passion of his Lord.

Every word and act of Our Lord was a lesson for us to learn, an example to follow. The greatest lesson of all, the greatest proof of His love for us was His suffering for us. Who, then, is not ready to suffer a little for the love of that God who suffered so much for us?

Our Lord, who was God, suffered; His Blessed Mother suffered. All good men suffer, but they feel that they are only having a little share in the sufferings of their dear Lord. They know full well that every pain will have its reward forever in Heaven, that five minutes’ suffering is worth far more to them than years of pleasure and joy.

Above all, they feel that God is helping them to suffer. Therefore real peace and happiness God and God alone can give and gives to all who ask Him for it in prayer.

Our work within the home can be transformed into a powerful prayer. One day of making meals and changing diapers, of reading stories and sweeping floors, when offered to Our Lord, is worth much more than a day’s work for those at the very top of their profession working just for monetary reasons… www.finerfem.com

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HOW TO BE HAPPY HOW TO BE HOLY (by Fr. Paul O’Sullivan) AUDIO! This is an excellent book published in the 1950’s. You will pray as you have never prayed before. Father Paul O’Sullivan teaches Christians a) how to pray. b) how to derive immense benefits from prayer. c) how to enjoy the deep consolations of prayer.

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