Q. I have always prayed the Divine Office but find this becoming mechanical. Any suggestions ?
A. Try to become more aware of the Church as a praying community. When you pick up your breviary, you have chosen to join your voice to the great hymn of praise raised by the Church and as you start to pray you are joining someone, some community, somewhere, that is also starting praying. This is not just you saying the Office, it is you joining in the constant adoration and worship of God raised from all corners of the world and beyond.
Q. When I sit to meditate, I find I tend to “drift off”. When I come to, I find time has passed but I am not sure whether or not I was asleep or was I praying. What should I do ?
A. Perhaps choose a different chair ? Seriously, when one gets caught up in God, time ceases to matter to us; we are getting in touch with eternity. Were you asleep ? Perhaps. But your sleep was given to God and He can use you as he wills.
Q. Does God answer prayer ?
A. Invariably yes – given that “no” could also be an answer. When we ask God for something, we have to avoid the trap of telling Him what the answer should be. God is a free agent and He answers out of love and from His immense overview of all the factors involved. We only see the immediate good; God is concerned with the knock-on effects of which we can be totally ignorant.
Q. When nothing seems to be happening in my prayer life, can I make things more “real”?
A. You can’t but God can. You need His help. Reality partly depends on your relationship with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We have to read the scriptures so that God becomes a real person whom we can pray to and talk to and argue with. We have to get to know Jesus, reflecting on his teaching and how it applies to me and my circumstances and my world. We have to become friends with Jesus so that he is often in our thoughts and that chatting with him is as natural as chatting to our friends. The Holy Spirit should be our guide and “enlighten me “ the phrase that we often use.
Q. I find “prayer guides” (books, articles etc) pretty useless. How do I find the way of praying that suits me ?
A. I think the short answer to this is practice. Finding a mode of prayer is a deeply personal thing and the Church offers its centuries of experience to the sincere seeker. Failing any other advice, choose a form of prayer and explore it on a regular basis for at least a couple of months and then try to assess how you feel about it. Note that “what you get out of it” is not the criteria to use; worshipping God and coming closer to Him is.
Q. “Raising one’s heart and mind to God” seems to me to be a natural gift. It is easy to do. Is there more to prayer than this ?
A. Yes: your life must reflect this reality. Jesus commands us to keep the commandments and we must do our best not to miss opportunities for service and, should the occasion arise, of teaching others how to wed prayer and action into one reality.