Prayer is essential for our eternal salvation. Definitions abound on prayer! Saint John Damascene states: “Prayer is the lifting of the mind and the heart to God.” Saint Teresa of Avila summarizes prayer as simply, “A loving conversation with the friend that I know loves me.” Saint Alphonsus asserts with vigor: “He who prays much, will be saved; he who does not pray, will be damned; he who prays little, places his salvation in jeopardy.” Saint Augustine, in his usual original, poetic and mystical fashion pipes up: “He who prays well, lives well; he who lives well, dies well; he who dies well, all is well.” A short but substantial catechetical definition for prayer follows as such: “Prayer is listening to God, talking to God, and loving God.” Finally, prayer is of such enormous importance that it can be expressed with these moving words: “What air is to the lungs, so prayer is to the soul.” In a word, if there is no prayer inhaling and exhaling in our spiritual lungs, we will simply wither up and die in our soul!
The above are classical quotes and statements, as well as definitions on the nature and importance of prayer. In this brief essay, we would like to portray and open up a window to prayer that perhaps very few have dared to enter.
MODES FOR PRAYER. In classical Catholic writings on prayer, there are basically four modes of prayer that usually surface and are explained. These can be summarized in a four-letter acronym: A.C.T.S. Each one of the four letters expresses a different mode for prayer, or if you like, a different means of communication. In fact, another way to define prayer is communication with God. Here we have it!
A= ADORATION: We are called to praise, glorify and worship our Triune God.
C= CONTRITION: We stumble and fall into sin! So we beg pardon and mercy for our moral transgressions, that we call sins.
T= THANKSGIVING: We render thanks to God for all the many blessings that God in His goodness has bestowed upon us.
S= SUPPLICATION: Augustine states that we are all beggars before God. We are all in dire need that God will help us when we call upon Him.
Beyond a shadow of doubt, all of the above modes, manners or various sentiments in prayer have incalculable value. However, being dead honest with ourselves, and what is going on in our daily lives with so many struggles, we should add another mode or form of prayer.
Saint Peter in one of his letters opens the gates, the door, the window, and the roof to another form of prayer that perhaps we have never utilized. It can be summed up in these few words, the title of this blog-article: “Cast your cares upon the lord, for he cares for you.” Jesus expressed it in these words: “Come to me, all you who find life burdensome, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11: 28-30)
How can we interpret these words of Saint Peter and the Lord Jesus Himself related to the modes or manners of expression that prayer can play out in our lives?
BRING YOUR PROBLEMS, WORRIES, AND TROUBLES TO THE LORD. On a human level, if we always unload our problems, worries and troubles on someone else, before long they will do all they possibly can to avoid us. That is human nature! We weary quickly of listening to people unload their problems to us. Listening to others’ problems stresses us out, causes us tension, can provoke irritability, can sap our energy, and at times simply bore our socks off!
GOD IS DIFFERENT: MODEL OF INFINITE PATIENCE AND LOVE. With God it is very different! The Lord never gets tired of us. Whenever we come to Him, He does not turn the corner and run in the opposite direction. No matter how often and long we talk to the Lord, He never gets bored, he never yawns, looks at His watch, or scratches His scalp!
Quite the contrary, every time we approach the Lord with faith, humility, confidence, good will, and a desire to be heard and understood, He listens to us, gives us His undivided attention, and sincerely loves us. All the baggage that we can unload and throw at His feet, He is willing to pick up and help us to carry.
Having set the stage for this perhaps new mode or form of prayer, why not make a list of certain areas of concern, worry, or anxiety that can be part and parcel of your unloading to the Lord. Take as a Biblical foundation, the words of the Letter from Saint Peter: CAST YOUR CARES UPON THE LORD, BECAUSE HE CARES FOR YOU!
1. HEALTH. In his 80’s my Father was known to say: “You arrive at a certain age and your body falls apart one piece at a time.” Many of us can identify with this truism after reaching a certain age. There is no reason why we cannot talk over with the Lord our aches and pains, our ailments and sicknesses. The Lord will listen to us attentively and encourage us not to waste our pain, suffering, and ailments, but rather offer them up for the salvation of souls, for our family and other souls. Another good one related to the sanctification of suffering is the following: “Suffering can either make us better or bitter!!!” Hopefully it will make us better, rather than bitter!
2. FAMILY PROBLEMS. Not one of us can honestly say that our family is perfect and without problems. This will be the case only when we arrive at our Heavenly Home. Why not unload to the Lord Jesus your family situation? Tell Jesus about a person in your family who perhaps is causing you indescribable suffering, anguish and pain. Jesus will definitely hear this prayer and intervene, though perhaps not in your time or manner of operation. But He will hear your prayer and He will intervene. God is not indifferent to our family anguish.
3. ECONOMIC PROBLEMS. Many have economic straits that are extremely critical. Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph understand this perhaps better than us! Jesus was born in the poor stable of Bethlehem. The Holy Family had to take flight to Egypt with no promise of economic security whatever. In His Public Life that lasted about three years, Jesus had no fixed abode! He said of Himself: “Foxes have holes; the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Mt. 8: 20) Cast your cares on the Lord—and then trust!
4. SON OR DAUGHTER DISTANT FROM GOD. One of the greatest sufferings of so many parents today is the fact that their adult children have walked away from both God and the Church. Despite their Baptism, First Holy Communion, and possibly having been an altar server or in the choir, many in the younger generation no longer want to touch even the threshold of the Church. These are the Prodigal children (Lk. 15: 11-32), the lost sheep, the ship lost at sea with no mooring, nor anchor. Talk to the Lord about these loved ones and beg Jesus for their return to the fold.
5. EMOTIONAL STRESS AND ANXIETY. Never have we lived in a world and society so advanced technologically. But never have we lived in a world where so many of us have succumbed to anxiety and stress. Anxiety pills, psychological treatment, stress leave from work, prolonged vacations—all come as a result of anxiety and stress. Why not listen and heed to the words of Saint Peter and trust: CAST YOUR CARES UPON THE LORD, BECAUSE HE CARES FOR YOU!
6. UNFULFILLED GOALS AND DREAMS. We should all have goals and dreams in life. Perhaps our goals and dreams have never become a reality and are still only dreams. How we long for these dreams to come true, but nothing even close to reality has occurred. Our God is a God of surprises, and also of miracles. Even the most distant hope can still crystalize and materialize with God’s intervention. The Psalmist reassures us: “Our help is in the name of the Lord who make heaven and earth” (Ps: 124: 8).
7. THE LOSS OF LOVED ONES. Sooner or later death will knock at the door of our lives. As John Donne, the poet expresses it: “Do not ask for whom the bell tolls; the bell tolls for you.” Many of us cannot reconcile ourselves with the fact that one of our loved ones has been taken by the phantom of death. Jesus raised Lazarus form the dead, and He Himself died and rose from the dead. Talk to the Lord about the death of your loved one and then contemplate the reality of the Resurrection. Jesus indeed is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE!
8. OMINOUS THREAT OF THE FUTURE AND WHAT IT PRESENTS. None of us can deny that the world is in turmoil, confusion and upheaval. It is all too easy to look into the dark tunnel of the future and almost give into despair. Much better to heed the words of the Holy Spirit: CAST YOUR CARES UPON THE LORD, BECAUSE HE CARES FOR YOU! Jesus chided His own saying worry is useless; what is needed is faith in Him and trust!
9. DOUBTS AND TEMPTATIONS REGARDING OUR FAITH. Another source of anxiety, tension and suffering is that many are assaulted with doubts regarding their faith. Why not express these doubts to the Lord? Jesus will come to you and gently rebuke you and encourage you, as in the case of Saint Thomas, the doubter, to renew your faith in His love, providence, and constant care. May the words of the Psalmist buoy up our sinking ship: “The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want” (Psalm 23:1).
10. OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE AND SAINT JUAN DIEGO. Saint Juan Diego was afflicted with a very serious problem—the near death of his uncle, Juan Bernardino. On December 12th, 1531, Juan met Our Lady on the hill of Tepeyac and she consoled him in his worries, anxieties and fears. These were Our Lady of Guadalupe’s consoling words to Juan and to us: “Do not be afraid; am I not your Mother? I have you in the very closing of my arms (my heart); you are in my shadow (I am always present); in the folding of my apron/tilma (in my very womb).