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Online Retreat: "Discerning a Life of Service in the Church" Week Four

“Pray unceasingly” (1 Thessalonians 17) 

When St. Paul invites the Thessalonians (and us!) to pray without ceasing, that is quite a challenge. Father Robin Ryan, CP, founding director of Catholics on Call, has a lot to say about the need for and the power of prayer. All of the quotes from this last week of our retreat come from his article in Catholics on Call entitled “The Foundations and Dynamics of Prayer” (pp. 44-62)


“Pray unceasingly”

 

Monday

“It is very important that we begin our exploration of prayer by reflecting on the gift of grace. Life with God is not like training for a “spiritual triathlon,” where if we run enough 10Ks, swim enough laps in the pool, and practice biking up those hills, we will have an outstanding showing on the day of the race. We certainly do need to put forth the effort in the practice of our faith-- significant effort. But we must always remember that, at its heart, our life with God is a response. It is a response to God’s faithful, tenacious love for us. This is articulated beautifully in the First Letter of John: ‘God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he has loved us and sent his son to the atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1 John 4:9-10).” (Catholics on Call, pp. 46-47)

Question for Reflection: How well are you responding to God these days?

Go to the message board (for CoC alums only).


“Pray unceasingly”

 

Tuesday

“Prayer requires a significant amount of self-discipline and practice. … Many of us struggle with being fully present to others or to what we are doing. … We find it hard to do one thing a time. ‘Multitasking’ is a term often used these days for the ability to handle a number of things at once. We value people who are proficient at multitasking. But when we pray we are invited to put aside multitasking for a while. We are called to ‘un-multitask.’ And this is where we often struggle.

In prayer we are asked to attend to the God who is already present to us-- closer to us than we are to ourselves. We do not manufacture God’s presence in prayer. And we do not fly off in our ‘spiritual space shuttle’ to the distant place where God resides. Rather, we consciously attend to the God who holds us in being, who is transcendent yet always near. This is the God whose deepest desire is to give of self to us as one to be known and loved.” (Catholics on Call, p. 50)

Question for Reflection: How do you deal with the modern-day temptation to “multitask?”

Go to the message board (for CoC alums only).


“Pray unceasingly”

Wednesday

“In order to become a person of prayer, it is essential to speak to the Lord as honestly as we can about what is going on in our lives. The use of set words in prayer is appropriate and can be very helpful. Our Catholic tradition offers us a rich treasury of such prayers, from the psalms to the rosary. But we also need to incorporate into our personal prayer some spontaneous conversation with God. We need to talk with God directly about what we are hoping for and what we may be struggling with. It is important for us to share our joys and accomplishments with God as well as our sadness, disappointments and confusion. We need to bring to God even those feelings that seem negative to us, like fear, anger, resentment and jealousy. This kind of honest communication is crucial for discerning one’s vocation. Through it we come into deeper touch with ourselves and we allow our entire selves to be present to God.” (Catholics on Call, pp. 55-56)

Question for Reflection: Are you able to bring your “whole self” to God in prayer?

Go to the message board (for CoC alums only).


“Pray unceasingly”

 

Thursday

“The other dimension of communication with God is, of course, listening. It is important to recall that the dynamics of prayer have their foundation in the reality of God’s self-communication. One essential aspect of these dynamics, then, is listening to God and discerning God’s self-communication to us.

The listening dimension of prayer is not simple or easy. There is no single, foolproof method for discerning God’s word to us... As we try to move to an interior quiet and stance of listening in prayer, we usually encounter a whole host of movements and voices at different levels of our being. Some of this inner noise represents the more superficial thoughts, concerns and desires that are part of our lives. Sometimes we hear within ourselves feelings and tendencies that disturb us, like jealousy and resentment. Listening for God means moving down to our deepest desires, to the very center of our being. It is there that God’s desires for us and our own deepest desires intersect. At that still, center point we are able to discern the voice of God.” (Catholics on Call, pp. 58-59)

Question for Reflection: Can you name a time in your life when you were able to get to that “still, center point” and hear the voice of God?

Go to the message board (for CoC alums only).


“Pray unceasingly”

 

Friday

“In prayer, then, there are two who are active: the praying person and God. In order to become attuned to the action of God, we need to integrate some time for quiet listening into our prayer. There will be times when we experience God speaking to us in his own subtle, mysterious ways. On other occasions that time of listening will consist simply of a mutual presence to: our presence to God and God’s presence to us. It is like two good friends who can enjoy one another’s company at dinner without exchanging a lot of words. That quiet presence is itself a marvelous gift.” (Catholics on Call, p. 60)

Question for Reflection: How is your prayer life these days? What is really working for you?

Go to the message board (for CoC alums only).

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