Prayer is an important part of our lives. As Catholics, we are taught to pray specific prayers. It starts almost at the cradle, with, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep, but if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” As we grow older, we learn the Hail Mary. Which is quickly followed by the Our Father, The Glory Be, and, in my case, the Act of Contrition. I don’t recall ever being taught to pray Grace, but I at least absorbed it at my grandparents’ and my parents’ table.
For what seems like decades, we prayed the Apostles’ Creed during Mass and, then it was replaced by the Nicene Creed. I often wondered why. I finally took a few minutes and looked it up. The Nicene Creed was adopted during the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. It was written to refute the heresies of Arius, the leader of the Arianism, a sect that taught that Jesus was not divine but only human.
At that time, the church lacked a central authority, and each bishop was responsible for the teaching of the faith within his area of responsibility. Some bishops were strong while others lacked the strength needed to keep the faith pure. The Nicene Creed was supposed to end the variations in theological teachings. The 318 bishops attending the Council agreed to the wording, and it became the statement of our faith. It was just 56 years later, in 381 A.D., that The First Council of Constantinople found it necessary to modify the Nicene Creed, bringing it closer to the creed we recite in church today.
A few weeks ago, I learned that the Gospels contain two versions of the Our Father. One is in the Gospel of Matthew and is the one we are familiar with. A disciple asked Jesus to teach them how to pray as John had taught his followers. His response is what we know as the Our Father. The Gospel of Luke has what is known as the short version. In Chapter 11, verses 2-4, we find Jesus responding with “Father, hallowed be thy name, your kingdom come. Give us each our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we too forgive all who do us wrong; and subject us not to the trial.”
Although there is no specific format for prayers in the Bible, I was taught that there are different forms of prayer. The first and most common is a prayer of petition in which we ask God to grant us something. The second is a prayer of thanksgiving – thanking God for something that He has given to us. Another would be a prayer of praise. There is also a prayer of contrition. Both versions of the Our Father contain all four of these elements.
I have noticed that those who frequent churches other than Catholic have the practice or ability to extemporaneously pray as the occasion requires. Although the prayers follow a general outline, they vary significantly from person to person.
As I was researching this topic and, yes, I do research these topics, I discovered that many of the definitions for prayer included the word “communion.” Not the Eucharist, but the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.
Yes, the Mass is a form of group prayer, but what intrigued me was the concept of an exchange of thoughts, the idea of a conversation. A process that is an exchange of thoughts and possibly feelings.
A few weeks ago, I heard part of an interview on National Public Radio. The interviewer was talking with an author about a book he had written and was then in release. The small segment I caught dealt with the concept of a conversation with God. The author spoke of his taking a few moments each morning when he went to a personal place, away from outside distractions. He said he cleared his mind of everything and just sat, listened, and waited.
He said it took a little practice, but eventually he claimed that he was able to converse with God. My first reaction was the guy is obviously a little shy of a full deck. But then I recall some Eastern religions that practice various forms of meditation. Maybe, just maybe.
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Partisan politics has no place in our meetings. No member can use his membership to campaign for a particular candidate or party. When I started as your lecturer, I said it was time to take back our country. I encouraged you to take an active part in the primary process, to become involved. Our next general business meeting will be one week before election day. I urge you to carefully evaluate each candidate for the various public offices and to vote for the person you believe is the best candidate for that office.