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Christian Prayer

Author: H.E. Bishop Bawai Soro


"He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.'"

Luke 11:1-2
H.E. Bishop Mar Bawai Soro

Prayer is central to the Christian way of life. Just as Jesus often and always prayed to his Father in heaven, so he taught his followers also to pray.

What is prayer? One might say that prayer is "talking to God." Another might see it more as "listening for the promptings of the Holy Spirit" or "raising one's mind to the Lord." Some may pray only in a formal way, together with others in a church. Many also pray at home alone, in the privacy of their rooms and their own quiet thoughts.

We pray before meals, in the car on the way to work, when trouble disturbs our lives, when joys lift our minds to God. We pray when those we love are sick, when a child is born, when the elderly die, when tragedy strikes. We pray for guidance when in doubt, for forgiveness of our sins, to ask for help, to give thanks for our blessings. In short, we pray always.

Prayer thus can and should touch every moment of the day. For two millennia, Christian believers have prayed upon rising from bed to face the challenges of our day. Again, at night, Christians have always turned our thoughts inward, reviewing the events of the day and begging God's forgiveness for sin as we examine our conscience.

Christian prayer over the centuries has taken on many forms. The Eucharistic liturgy, representing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, in which he offered his Body and Blood at the Last Supper - prefiguring his passion and death on the Cross - is the supreme prayer of the Christian faithful in the form of a holy Oblation (Qurbana). Within the liturgy we join our minds, hearts and voices to worship God as we offer him our praise, thanksgiving, petitions and intercessions.

Prayer can include meditation and contemplation; reading of the Scriptures or other written works of faith; using the Psalms, the prayer book of the Jewish people and of Jesus Christ, as in the Liturgy of the Hours (Sapra, Tahra, Ramsha & Lilya); free-form dialogue with God, pouring out our hearts and souls to his listening ear; and the Lord's Prayer and other formal prayers, used at liturgy or on other occasions.

Generally speaking, four basic kinds of prayer can describe what Christians are doing when we pray. We can remember these four kinds of prayer by the acronym "ACTS". First, there is the prayer of Adoration (praise or blessing). This prayer recognizes and adores God simply for who he is, apart from anything he does for us. We honor and give glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Triune God, eternal, almighty, Love itself. This kind of prayer is what is most properly called "worship," for in the prayer of praise we bow down before the Lord of heaven and earth, offering our lives and all that he has given us back to him.

Second, there is the prayer of Contrition. Here we ask God's forgiveness for our sins. When we nightly examine our conscience, recalling the events of the past day, keen eyes aware of God's love operating in every moment of the day will see where we have failed to live in that love. To the Lord, then, in a prayer of petition, we offer our sorrow for our sins, and ask the Lord's forgiveness and merciful love.

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