Introduction: “Lord, teach us to pray!”
Today, together with the first disciples, we address this petition to the Master: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1). Jesus answers by teaching us the Lord’s Prayer and tells us the parable of the persistent friend. He shows us what to pray for and invites us to pray insistently, in season and out of season: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened” (Lk 11:9-10). He has written in our hearts the desire to pray, to pray better, to make our life a prayer, a liturgy; to pray always (Lk 18:1-8), not in the sense of reciting prayers at every moment, but in the sense of always being attentive to the Holy Spirit, in the presence of God, so that all our activities become a response to his will, an offering to our Lord.
Praying in the school of Jesus, in the Church, is the way to meet the Lord every day, as he constantly walks and rests at our side. Jesus, the fount that quenches our thirst, awaits us by the well at the hottest and driest hour of the day to say, “Give me a drink.” He thirsts for us and we thirst for God, even if we do not know it: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never thirst, for the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:13-14).
What you have in your hands, Lord, Teach Us to Pray, is a path of initiation. It is an introduction to the life of prayer, so that the lay members of Regnum Christi may learn to pray by praying, as part of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, in the style of Regnum Christi. When we pray, we unite ourselves to the prayer of Christ, to his Person and to his Body – the Church – to address the Father in communion with the Holy Spirit. Common prayers and guidelines help us experience communion with the Church and Regnum Christi even when we pray alone, and facilitate times of community prayer.
What is a prayerful life?
Prayer is not a standalone activity disconnected from the rest of our life. By a prayerful life, we want to express the vigor that springs from our personal encounter with Christ in the Liturgy and the sacraments, having it spill over to fill our whole world with the fragrance of Christ. Strengthening our hearts through constant prayer, we listen to the Holy Spirit, who appeals to us through daily events and inspires us with the response of living daily life as Christ did.
The Liturgy is the privileged space of man’s encounter with God and with his Son, which is manifested through signs – actions and words – the expression of the dialogue and encounter of each person with God in his Church. Here you will find suggestions for living some of the sacraments and for bringing their “living water” to prayer and daily life. In particular, you will find references to the liturgical seasons, the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and some instructions for the Encounter with Christ and the Rite of Association to Regnum Christi, so that you can continue to renew this milestone in your story of both love for God and your Regnum Christi vocation.
A prayerful life includes specific moments of prayer accompanied by external signs. These signs also help us to pray with the body, allowing prayer to reach our whole being and action, sanctifying it. The life of prayer, nourished by the sacraments, battles against our hardness of heart (Ps 95:8), so that it is no longer us, but Christ who reigns within (Gal 2:20). Here you will find many vocal prayers, such as the Lord’s Prayer. Most of them are from the tradition of the Church, and some are particular to Regnum Christi.
Finally, a prayerful life prolongs the sacraments and prayer by making our lives a liturgy, expressed with certain signs which make the Kingdom of Christ present: compassion for those most in need, communion with our brothers and sisters, works of charity and mercy, witness and mission, new ways of living within marriage, family and work, a new culture.
It is this presence of the Kingdom that nourishes the spirituality of the Kingdom, through which we return to the Liturgy, the sacraments and prayer, seeking “to clothe ourselves with Christ in our hearts and in our works, so he reigns in our lives through a progressive configuration with him,” allowing ourselves “to be permeated by Christ’s love for humanity” so that “he reigns in the hearts of all people and society” (SRCF. 13). It is a virtuous circle that culminates in adoration.
How is Lord, Teach Us to Pray structured?
Nature and human life have a daily, weekly, and annual rhythm. The Liturgy accompanies this rhythm, teaching us to see the invisible presence of the Kingdom in the ordinary time of nature and life. There are prayers and signs that we express every day, others weekly, and others at certain times of the year. Through this, prayer becomes habit and our habits come to form a prayerful life.
A good part of Lord, Teach Us to Pray corresponds to this natural and liturgical structure: the day, the week, and the year unfold from the day on which we celebrate the historical event that transfigures all of time: the eighth day, Sunday, the Lord’s Day. But life is also marked by singular occasions, unique moments of special relevance for us. At the end, you will find prayers and suggestions for these events.
How can I benefit most from Lord, Teach Us to Pray?
Here are seven suggestions for growing in the life of prayer:
- Place yourself in the presence of God, be aware of what you are about to do, prepare your heart. Become attentive to the fact that it is God before whom you stand. Seek interior and exterior silence. Try to give your prayer meaning and pray with all your senses. Ask the Holy Spirit for help, so that he guides your mind and fills your heart.
- Go to the Word of God, Sacred Scripture, that constant dialogue between God and man. When we begin our life of prayer, it is best to learn from the one who prays best, the Lord himself. Try to pray with the same sentiments of Jesus, that it may be Christ who lives, works, and prays in you.
- Contemplate the words and signs of the Liturgy, the privileged place of encounter between God and his people, in which the action of God joins the action of man in perfect synergy.
- Meditate occasionally on the vocal prayers. They are an expression of faith, but they also nourish faith. Learn to savor and renew their meaning, recognizing how they relate to your life. Try to reflect on the spirit behind the words and how they speak to your heart. To remember is to return back through the heart.
- Let him lead you. It is not about what we do in prayer, but what he wants to do with us. You could feel nothing, fail to find answers, and nevertheless have prayed well. Even if “we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26), he knows and is with us.
- It may take you a while to enter into prayer. That is all right. Remain in silence and listen to his Word. You may come out of prayer unexpectedly. It is not unusual. Don’t worry about it. Try to reenter into prayer.
- Before ending, try to bring your prayer to day-to-day life. Come up with a small resolution that you can practice relatively quickly. Let it be simple, realistic, and firm.
All of this is learned through personal practice, the advice of people more experienced in prayer, and prayer shared with others. Ask your spiritual director for advice, seek out teachers and prayer partners, and try to make the team Encounter with Christ a school of prayer. You will find in the fourth part of the Catechism, “On Christian Prayer,” a very simple and complete introduction to the life of prayer.
Often in the rubrics — the texts in red — you will find an invitation to take a step further, deepening in the elements we offer here. Prayer life has several stages – the later stages don’t rule out the first ones. There may be many recommendations here that you will always find helpful, but life in the Spirit continues past these pages.
“Pray as you are,” confident that you will become what you pray. We pray as we live and live as we pray. The way you pray will change as you change. Though the sounds of vocal prayers remain the same, the Spirit renews them and causes rivers of living water to flow from them. Let us ask for this gift that the Lord wants to give us.