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Outline/Summary for Keys to An Effective Prayer Life Keys to An Effective Prayer Life • Four Basics in Prayer 1.

We need to develop a positive image of God and self 2. We must be honest with God 3. We need to integrate prayer with daily life 4. We must listen to God in prayer. Effective Prayer • • happens when the divine-human communication affects people’s lives and the way they communicate with other people, possessing a social conscience. • facilitates human and spiritual growth and enhances our relationships with others and with God –– growth in faith, hope and love of God, others and self. • helps us to face evil courageously and to place our trust in God when we walk in the valley of darkness • opens us to experience of God’s unconditional love and to the acceptance of his incomprehensible ways • gradually helps us to be attentive and responsive to the needs of others, especially the poor • SHOULD HELP US TO ACCEPT AND INTEGRATE THE DIFFERENT DIMENSIONS AND STRIVINGS OF OUR BEING. • Keys to Effective Prayer • “keys” - refers to some basic facts that we need to pay attention to so that we become receptive soil (reminds us that prayer and its goal, transformation in Christ, are pure gift) for God’s transforming work in us. • “It is true to say we don’t pray, but rather we let it happen in us. The best we can do is to prepare and dispose ourselves to let it happen.” 1. Key One: Developing a Positive Image of God and Self • On a human level, the image and feelings we have for another person and how we perceive the other person to feel about us will usually have a tremendous effect on how we relate to that person. • Also, our own self-image will affect the way we approach and relate to people. (e.g. If we have a postiive image of ourselves, we will go out to people and relate to them with confidence. If we think we are not very lovable, we will approach people with self-doubt, fearful that they may reject us and not find us lovable.) • God is a person and prayer is our attempt to relate with a personal God. The same basic dynamics are at work in our relationship with God as are at work in our relationships with other people. What helps or hinders us in our attempts to relate to other people will also help or hinder us in our relationship with God. • It is very important that we spend some quality time reflecting and perhaps sharing our reflections. We need to check the images of God and self from which we operate and become aware of some of the consequences of these images. Some examples would include: • God (policeman-type person) - relationship with Him will be characterized by fear, by distance and perhaps, by resentment.

Outline/Summary for Keys to An Effective Prayer Life • If we are overly scrupulous (strict or meticulous), we will believe consciously or more likely unconsciously, that God is a tyrant who is impossible to please and who is ready to pounce on us for failures. • If we experience him as a loving Father, we will arppoach him with trust, relaxation, and love. If we experience God as merciful, we will not hesitate to talk to him about our failures, knowing that his love for us is not based on our good performance. Sometimes, we think we have this image of God as someone who is loving, merciful, but most, if not all of us, carry around some primitive, destructive images of God which can particularly affect us in times of stress Our image of God often derives from childhood relationships with parents or authority figures. The Scriptures would give us several different and interesting images of God: • the shepherd caring for his sheep • a mother cherishing her offspring or weeping over her rebellious children • a teacher • a healer of the sick and friend of sinners • one denouncing the righteous and the corrupt • a challenger of the rich and one who demands all from a potential disciple • Ultimately, no individual image of set of images can comprehend the Incomprehensible God for he is a Mystery. At this point, it is legitimate for us to make use of human images to help us in our relationship with God. Imaging: GOD AS LOVE • Of all the images of God that can serve us well in our relationship with Him, the image of God as an unconditional lover is the most important of all. • When we doubt the truth of God’s love, it is as if the power of original sin grabs hold of us. • Consciously or unconsciously, we think that we have to be good in order for God to love us, that while we may say that God’s love for us is not determined by our actions, our behavior often says that we actually believe that God loves us only when we keep his commandments. • In the Christian journey, our primary aim is not to be good so that God will love us, but rather it is to be open to experiencing god’s transforming love, which in turn will motivate us, more than anything else, to want to be Christlike in thought, word and deed. • Some worthwhile and practical suggestions that will help us experience God’s unconditional love: • We can pray for the gift of knowing in our hearts that God loves us. • We can try to recognize and name the particular ways that we believe God is presently loving us. • Try to develop a grateful attitude toward life, realizing that all the good and the apparently not good happenings in life come from the loving hand of God. • Try to see an expression of God’s love in the genuine expressions of love that people give us.

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Outline/Summary for Keys to An Effective Prayer Life • Ultimately, our loving Father says to us: “Come as you are; be yourself; enjoy your time with me. If you want to talk and pour out your heart about something, that’s okay. If you want to rest in my presence, snuggle up in my lap and arms, that’s okay, too.” Imaging: Ourselves as Lovable • • A key factor in an effective prayer life is experiencing ourselves as lovable because a poor self-image can play havoc with our relationships on both a human and spiritual level. • When we suffer from a poor opinion of ourselves, we are inclined to assume that God (and other people) share this opinion. • In effect, to question or deny our own goodness is like questioning or denying that we were created very good • Here are a few suggestions that can help us come to a greater sense of our innate goodness and beauty • FIRST SUGGESTION: • We can use the Word of God to transform and shape the way we see ourselves. Our self-image is shaped by the words we believe in. We must learn to dwell on, ponder and reflect on the loving words of God and others. • To help us as we listen to God’s Word and allow it to affirm us in our self-worth, we will do well to consider the words of John’s Gospel: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” • We begin by using our imagination to visualize Jesus speaking these words to us, imagining him sitting across us and looking at us with love, saying these words. • We should then try to allow these words to enter our being – to touch not just our ears but also our hearts. • We should then verbalize our acceptance of the affirmation and love that Jesus offers, and after thanking God for his loving words. • The act of giving thanks is a concrete sign that we have accepted God’s word of affirmation. • SECOND SUGGESTION: • We can learn to believe more deeply in our own goodness if we see and receive Jesus in the Eucharist as a tangible sign of His tremendous love for us. • In and through Jesus’ words, He is telling each of us: “I am dying that you may live” or “I love you so much that I am ready to pour out my blood (my life) for you.” • Every time we receive Holy Communion, we are being offered an opportunity to affirm our belief in Jesus’ love for us. THIRD SUGGESTION: • • We can learn to accept ourselves as good and lovable if we risk sharing our true and false selves with other people. As we begin to reveal our dark or less noble side to another caring person and begin to experience his or her acceptance of us, this acceptance will help us to be more loving toward ourselves.

Outline/Summary for Keys to An Effective Prayer Life • Normally, the transformation from a poor to a postiive self-concept takes years, and even then we will sometimes find that we occasionally regress into believing negative things about ourselves. • With God’s love and the love of self are intertwined, as we grow in the experience of God’s love, we will also come to see and experience ourselves as lovable. 2. Key Two: Being Honest With God • In the initial stages of a human relationship, we usually make a special effort to be nice to the other person. We tend to avoid talking about issues or feelings that my cause embarrassment or a rift in the relationship, sometimes using masks to cover up the areas of our personality that we do not like or think the other party wouldn’t like. Yet to the extent that we are failing to share our true thoughts and feelings, the relationship is lacking in honesty and genuineness. • The decision to confront difficult feelings or issues in a relationship is a decision to love. We make a decision to reach out because we care about the relationship and because we trust in the goodness of the other to understand whatever it is we need to share. In friendships, we learn over and over that we enjoy each other’s company to the extent that we decide to be honest and genuine with one another. • If we are honest and open with god, we will feel close to the Lord most of th etime. One the other hand, if we treat God as “polite company,” we may find that while we have a “nice” relationship with God, it lacks fire and intimacy. We will probably experience God as a distant figure. • Learning to be open and honest with God is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult lessons that we have to learn in the school of prayer. • ADMITTING OUR FEELINGS • We are consciously or unconsciously afraid to tell God that we are angry with him. This mentality is perhaps stemmed from our experience as a child when we got angry with our parents and we get punished. • Even if our heads tell us that God is not to blame for all the problems and deficiencies in life, still they are life’s hurts, & the anger and resentment we feel may also be aimed at God. At the least, we may at some level that God, the all-powerful, could have spared or protected us if he really loved us. • It is possible to be angry with God about what happened to us years ago. When we express anger at God, this doesn’t drive him away, but only brings him closer to us. We should be reminded that if we are angry with God about something, we may have to express that anger not just one time but several times. • We all recognize the fact that even friends become frustrated and angry with each other once in awhile. Many spiritual guides would tell us that if we are “stuck” in our prayer life, we will often begin to move again when we are able to recognize and expres our anger toward God, people and life. • We must realize that we will create a wall between God and ourselves if we fail to honestly recognize and deal with our feelings that we have toward other people. For example, we may experience feelings of hate, jealousy,

Outline/Summary for Keys to An Effective Prayer Life fear, lust, guilty or similar attitudes. As long as such feelings are not dealt with, it is most likely that we will experience a barrier between God and us DEALING WITH OUR FEELINGS. • • Often we are told that feelings like anger, hate and lust were wrong and sinful but feelings simply exist. there is no such thing as an immoral feeling. All feelings, even hate, fear and jealousy, are good in themselves and have a role to play in our lives. For example, our capacity to feel hate is helpful in the face of sin and evil. We use the feeling of fear to stop us from stepping off a ten-story building, etc. • The question of morality arises only when we express our feelings in inappropriate ways or when we allow our feelings to control our behavior. For example, it is not wrong to have hateful feelings for others, but it would be wrong for us to allow our feelings of hate to cause us to behave in hateful ways toward others. • An important part of human and spiritual growth is learning to accept and integrate all of our feelings. We need to be aware of what feelings are unacceptable to us and why by resolving past hurts and bad experiences. We need to learn how to deal with our feelings as we would deal with a wounded or unruly child – namely, with a combination of gentleness and firmness. • Here are four methods that could help deal with tough or uncomfortable feelings: • First, name the feeling. By simply naming an intense feeling that is controlling us, we immediately rob it of some of its power. • Second, express the feelings. If our intense, “negative” feelings are toward a particular person, we should imagine that person sitting opposite us and telling him or her exactly how we feel. • Third, own the feelings and accept them as part of who we are. One way for us to grow in our acceptance and ownership of our unacceptable feelings is by dialoguing with them as we would dialogue with an unruly child or a friend with whom we have had a disagreement. • Fourth, talk to Jesus about these feelings and seek His healing. It is important and consoling to remember that Jesus, being fully human, probably experienced at times all the feelings with which we feel uncomfortable. In fact, it is very helpful if we can find and reflect on an incident in Scripture where Jesus had a feeling similar to ours. In summary, we need to realize that learning to be real and honest with God • involves bringing our whole selves before God: our messy, confused and good selves. It involves learning to talk to God about our relationships, jobs, possessions, and even our sexiest, wildest, mose cruel thoughts and feelings. Honesty in prayer will involve bringing before the Lord our doubts, fears and the anger we may have toward God, others, and self. 3. Key Three: Integrating Prayer With Daily Life • One of the biggest challenges of the spiritual journey is the integration of prayer ot the rest of life. If Jesus is to become Lord of our life, He must be invited to guide and permeate every activity of our day. When this happens our whole day

Outline/Summary for Keys to An Effective Prayer Life – with its religious and secular dimensions – will become on act of worship to the Father. • “The holiest actions of our day are those done most in tune with the Spirit: These may be either prayer or service.” • Authentic spirituality does not separate formal prayer and secular activities because the same Spirit is present and active in all of them. • The spiritual life is all of life: cooking, paying bills, driving to work and little league games, making love, and dealing with conflicts. God is present in all encounters, events and objects. • The challenge now is to make every encounter and event of our week a spiritual exercise through which we grow in our relationshipw ih God. The more we do this the more real God will become for us. 4. Key Four: Listening to God in Prayer • “To listen is much more difficult than to speak. When we speak we are the center of attention. We enjoy this. However when we listen, the other becomes the center of attention and that is much more demanding. To listen means that... we must empty ourselves in order to be filled with the other person. [In prayer] listening implies being open to what God wants to do in us and also being ready to respond to God.” • One of the many reasons why many of us make slow progress in the spiritual life is because we never develop an inner spiritual ear with which to listen to the leadings of God’s Holy Spirit. The good prayer is above all a good listener. • So often in prayer we speak too much and listen too little. God created us with two ears and one mouth, hoping perhaps that we would listen twice as much as we would speak. • Necessary Attitudes for Listening • True listening in prayer is a real challenge, demanding faith, selflessness, patience, a reflective attitude, and courage. • Faith – to believe that God does communicate with us personally • Selflessness – to put aside our own need to talk or our own desire to be center stage, so that we can listen to others & give them center stage • Patience – because God does not always speak to us according to our time schedule. • Reflective Attitude – so that we can learn to read God’s messages as they come to us in the events & encounters of daily life • Courage – because God sometimes asks us to travel places we’d prefer not to go. • Prayer is very relevant when it is our attempt to discover what God wants of us and our attempt to seek the strength to carry out His will. • If our primary goal in prayer is to let God know our needs, we run the risk of developing a kind of professional relationship with God, not a personal one. • Just like how we call our friends, we visit God so that we can deepen our friendship, we may listen to them, they may listen to us, or we may simply enjoy each other’s presence. In other words, the primary focus is not to obtain a service but to deepen a friendship.

Outline/Summary for Keys to An Effective Prayer Life • How God Speaks to Us • He uses many channels to speak his Word to us – through sunrises, sunsets, through a smiling face, through sickness patiently endured, through the needy beggar. He speaks to us especially through sacred writings, through the lives of other people, through the events of daily life and through his creation. • Through sacred writings: God can speak through a sacred or inspired text. We can recall the Gospels and the different readings as God speaking to us. • Through the lives of other people: God can speak through the words of other people or through the quiet witness of their lives • Through the events of daily life • Through God’s creation: God can speak to us through the majesty and beauty of his creation. References: Tobin, Reverend Eamon. A Handbook for Today's Catholic. Missouri: Ligouri Publications, 2004. Print.

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