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STEWARDSHIP | The power of prayer

The world has been in turmoil for a long time. Many think it’s crazier now than ever. Why is that? For one thing, we know that fewer people identify as Christians. That probably means that fewer people are praying. When people don’t believe in God, they probably don’t believe the devil is real, either.

The devil wants despair and a loss of hope. Many people have become inward-focused on themselves instead of on God and others. We are growing selfish instead of selfless. We’re losing trust in God. We aren’t in communion with Him or each other.

But all is not lost. Throughout human history when humankind was in the doldrums, saints rose up! One thing that saints have in common is a fruitful prayer life. We should follow their examples and rediscover the power of prayer. Prayer leads us to God and gives us hope. Cardinal Robert Sarah said: “Hope is not smug optimism! Since a believer’s hope has its source in God, one can truly hope insofar as one has ties with God and is open to His influence.” The practices of community and individual prayer can help “tie ourselves with God.”

Community prayer: Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” When we pray together, Jesus’ presence increases the efficacy of our prayer. I look forward to community prayer because of the inspiration I receive from the fervor and piety of the people I pray with. I experience joy and peace from everyone united in worship. Invite others to join you at the various types of community prayer offered at your parish — the Rosary, litanies, novenas, chaplets, devotional prayers and Mass, the greatest of all.

Individual prayer: Jesus said, “But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.” To grow closer to someone, you have to spend time with them one-on-one, talking to each other about what is on your heart and then listening to the other’s response. This is the same with God. Prayer is supposed to be a dialogue between you and God. Starting can be a little one-sided. You may frequently ask God to take away things that worry you. As your discipleship grows from obligation to love, you recognize everything God has given you. Gratitude typically leads to greater generosity and collaboration with God on His plan.

Listening to God’s response can be difficult. Try to spend at least a half hour with the Blessed Eucharist, either in an adoration chapel or before the tabernacle at church. Quiet your heart to listen for God’s response. Use the Breathing Prayer to quiet yourself, “Breathe out anxiety, breathe in God’s love. Breathe out _________, breathe in God’s love.” (You fill in the “breathe out” part and continue until you are quieted). Once ready, ask God, “Lord, here I am. What can I do for you today?” Then, listen in silence. For me, most responses are concise and direct statements. There is no ambiguity.

Prayer works. God loves us. But, like any relationship, it takes commitment on our part, both in community and individual prayer. Don’t like what is happening in the world today? Stop complaining and ask God how He wants you to respond. Be patient and listen in silence for His response. Be the answer to someone’s prayer. Be the saint you are called to be.

David Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Assumption in south St. Louis County.

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