Prayer in the New Testament is presented as a positive command: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us…that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ.” (Colossians 4:2-3); “pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (l Thessalonians 5:l7-18.)
Early Christians included prayer in their everyday lives, even in the busy struggles of marriage (1 Corinthians 7:5). Prayer brought the faithful closer to God and was seen as the appointed method by which we are to obtain what God has to bestow on us: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks ﬁnds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8). The apostles regarded prayer as an essential part of their lives: “the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables…But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. The statement found approval with the whole congregation”. (Acts 6:2-5) Psalms were frequently incorporated into early Christian writings. Romans 3:l0-l8 for example is borrowed from Psalm 14:1-3 and other psalms. Lengthy passages of the New Testament are prayers or canticles, such as the Prayer for forgiveness (Mark 11:25-26), the Lord’s Prayer, the Magniﬁcat of Mary (Luke 1:46-55), the Benedictus (Luke l:68-7.9), Jesus’ prayer to the one true God (John I7), exclamations such as, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”, (Ephesians 1:3-l4), and many others.
Prayer is essential to living our Catholic faith. United through baptism, we share in the mystical body of Christ that is the Church and become part of a people who are perpetually at prayer. At every hour of the day in some part of the world a prescribed sacred Mass is being celebrated in accord with a liturgical calendar designed to unite all Catholics in prayer in every part of the world. A new calendar is issued each year to guide the prayers of the Church that unites all Catholics as one in prayer. The calendar includes liturgical seasons during the year for reflecting on the chief mysteries of Christ’s life and assigns appropriate Scripture readings for reﬂection.
The liturgical calendar begins each November with the season of Advent. Advent is a time of waiting for and preparing for the coming of the Lord that focuses both on the second coming of Christ that will occur at the end of the world and on preparing to celebrate the first coming of Christ at Christmas. Next is the Christmas season of several weeks that reﬂects on the incarnation event when God became man in Christ. The next major liturgical season is Lent. It is a penitential season during which the selected scripture readings allow us to journey with Jesus as he makes his ﬁnal journey to Jerusalem to suffer his passion, death, and resurrection for our salvation. Lent climaxes with a three day celebration of the redemptive suffering, death, and Resurrection of Christ at Easter. The lengthy Easter season that follows recalls the many appearances of the risen Jesus to hundreds of His disciples before his ascension into heaven. The Easter Season ends with the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles to give birth to the Church. Following Pentecost there is a long season of about five months referred to as Ordinary Time. During this period Christ’s life and teachings are emphasized. These major seasons are also interrupted throughout the year by feasts days for Jesus’ mother, Mary and other saints, on which the Church praises God’s grace which has led mankind to salvation. As each Liturgical Year ends another begins so that the Church is perpetually at prayer.
Sunday is always the center of Christian time and prayer. Every Sunday is a miniature celebration of Easter. On Sundays we fulﬁll the third Commandment of God to “Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded.” (Deut. 5:12)
Sundays remind us that God desires that we spend time with Him and that He loves us simply for who and what we are, not for what we do. To disregard or ignore Sunday is to reduce our lives to workdays or frivolous days only and we, who are created for true joy in Christ, degenerate into workhorses, mindless consumers and selﬁsh pleasure seekers. Respecting Sunday as the Lord’s day teaches us how to spend time with God here on earth and to long to spend eternity with God in Heaven where we will participate in an endless celebration of Sunday.
Catholics are also encouraged to pray together in union with the whole church with the aid of a book simply called Christian Prayer. The heart of the book is the 150 Psalms from the Old Testament that are prayed over and over during repeated four week cycles that coincide with the Liturgical calendar described earlier. Other accompanying prayers include readings from Sacred Scripture and speciﬁed prayers for the Church and the needs of the entire world. All priests and nuns incorporate morning and evening prayers from this book into their daily schedule to praying it in union with the whole Church each day. At every hour of every day, in some part of the world, the Mass and the Christian Prayer are being prayed by thousands of members of the one body of Christ formed by the Catholic church.
In addition to the universal liturgical prayers of the Catholic Church, all are also encouraged to develop a personal prayer life with God consisting of private prayers, devotions and spiritual activities. They may include devotions to particular saints to whom intercessory prayers to God for special intensions may be requested. The Rosary and the Stations of the Cross are also examples of devotions that many incorporate into their personal prayer life. Scripture reading, meditation and contemplation may also be part of personal prayer. The more an individual participates in the perpetual prayer life of the Church, the more they experience the living, risen Christ in Sacred Scripture, in their on hearts and in their brothers and sisters whom we are called to love as ourselves. Pray, pray, pray and God will be with you.