August 17, 2007


How can we pray in times of thanks and need?
What are some common cues to prayer?
When are some other times we can pray?

Friar Jack’s Inbox:

Readers reflect on Friar Jack’s musings

Catechism Quiz —
Reflections on Prayer

by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.

We know that as believers we are called to prayer. God is our creator, Jesus our redeemer and the Spirit our sanctifier. We are filled with their presence (sanctifying grace) and are called to communicate with them. 

To talk with God is what prayer really is. It’s what Jesus did all through his ministry, especially in the evening. Sometimes we read that he prayed all night (Lk 6:12). In addition, he taught us to pray the most perfect of all prayers, the Our Father (Mt 6:9).

How can we pray in times of thanks and need?

Let me start with something I’ve written before about prayer:

In my own life, I have developed a habit of talking and praying to God during the day.  Whenever something good happens in my life, no matter how insignificant it might seem to be, I pray, “Thank you, Lord.” It doesn’t mean the event or situation is “religious.” I’ll express thanks for small things like a good meal or even a safe journey home from work.

And whenever I need help or find myself experiencing difficulty, even in the smallest situation, I pray, “Lord, help me.”  No matter what it might be that I need. “Help, Lord” is just a two-word prayer, but it is an earnest petition to God. You would be surprised how often there is opportunity each day to pray, “Help me, Lord” or “Thank you, Lord.”

What are some common cues to prayer?

I want to follow up with some more ideas about simple methods of prayer, so that we are in touch with the Lord through prayer during the day.

For moms, thoughts and images of family, husbands and children that come to mind are a reminder to pray for loved ones—even while busy at home and work. People might say that these images are distractions, but in reality they are cues to say in your heart, “Lord, watch over them.”

Husbands and fathers, who may have photos of loved ones at work, can simply glance at these pictures and pray, “Love them, Lord.” No one else needs to know. It’s not an elaborate prayer. It is simply a momentary conscious connection between you and God and the very people for whom you would lay down your life for.

When are other times we can pray?

I once was driving with several Poor Clare nuns and came upon an accident. It was nothing serious, but just a terrible inconvenience and worry for the people involved. One of the sisters suggested, “Let’s offer a Hail Mary for them so that they get through this difficult time.” What a prayerful gesture! It wasn’t the rosary or a litany—only a single Hail Mary—but it was a thoughtful and kind prayer for those people.

If you are like me, when you get tied up in traffic due to someone’s “fender bender,” you become impatient. However, this is a chance to do the opposite of complaining. Pray for the people involved in the accident: “Lord, help them through this.” I can also thank God that I am not facing their predicament.

Everything that I am saying is really very simple, very easy and very hidden within us. But that is what it means to go through life with a sense of consciousness of God and the needs of others. There is nothing showy about it; we are not saying we are better than others because we pray. All we are saying is that we walk in the presence of the Lord and hold the Lord within us. The more we pray, even with simple words ( “I love you,” “help them,” “thank you,” “take care of them”), the more we are acting on our beliefs. Try it. It’s simple. It could make a difference in your life.

Friar Jack’s Inbox

Readers respond to Friar Jack’s musings on “The Cause of Father Solanus Casey (Continued)” and “Reflections on the Stigmata (Part I).”

Preliminary note from Friar Jack: The first e-mail below is from Don, who had written earlier and said he knew Father Solanus and met him three or four times. In my reply in last month’s Inbox (July 17), I said I was puzzled by some of his remarks. He gives some clarifications below:

Dear Friar Jack: I admit I was not too clear. What I meant is that we sometimes think of saints as very different people: eyes looking up to heaven, very quiet, very much out of this world, distant, the plaster saint. Father Solanus was such a humble friar that you felt at ease with him. He had to be brief—people were waiting—but he was always kind and to the point….The Solanus Center [in Detroit] is a beautiful place. It has a “soul.” People will never forget their visit there. Don

Dear Don: Thanks for the clarifications. As it turned out I received a good number of e-mails in response to the Inbox. Several people wrote and said they were sorry when they read that I had received so few responses last month, and so they took time to write, as you can see from the following letter. Friar Jack

Dear Friar Jack:  I, too, would love to make a trip to Detroit to pray at Father Solanus’s tomb. He is a special “saint.” I have never written before but wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading about Father Solanus especially since you received few responses regarding your [E-spiration of July 2, 2007]….I’m seeking to enter the SFO (Secular Franciscan Order) and am currently in the “inquiry” phase. I love Jesus with all my heart and am looking forward to sharing the rest of my life with Franciscan brothers and sisters….I can feel St. Francis’ joy in my heart. Theresa

Dear Friar Jack: I too enjoyed your piece on Father Solanus Casey. I have several times been to St. Bonaventure’s for the healing service and to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The friars are very welcoming and patient with everyone who has come to be close to the tomb of Father Solanus. When attending a healing service, one of the final things the friars do is individually bless each person with the relic of the true cross of Christ. What an amazing experience is in store for each visitor! Mike

Dear Friar Jack: [a response to Friar Jack’s “Reflections on the Stigmata (Part I)” August 1] If the stigmata is a type of emotional and spiritual “melding,” I have wondered why there is no history of Mary or any of the apostles experiencing the phenomenon. Perhaps you can touch on that in part II. Thank you for your uplifting comments that encourage so many of us on the journey! Melita

Dear Melita: You ask a good question, and I may not have a good answer, except to say that the great apostle St. Paul, speaking probably in a symbolic way of Christ’s suffering, says, “I bear the marks of Jesus on my body” (Gal 6:17). I do plan to comment a bit more on that in Part II. Thanks for your kind remarks. Friar Jack

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