Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Say Your Prayers!

Principle #9: Pray

One of the privileges of my mission to help promote vocations is that I get to know various candidates in a profoundly intimate way. One practice that I have adopted and have found tremendously helpful is to pray for the man both before and after our meetings. I pray before that I be open to him, that I be attentive, reverent, and devoted, that I be a good representative of the Society of Jesus to him. I pray also that he be open, honest, and comfortable with me. After our conversation, I always pray for the man that God continue to stir his heart and help to know better just how he is being called to live out his discipleship.

It is one thing to pray for vocations "in general." I think, however, it is something else entirely to pray for a man in particular. I do not mean to suggest that you start picking men out at random and praying that they heed God's call to the priesthood. Rather, I should think that if you know of a man who is in discernment, you would be doing a great service to him by praying for him.

"But Ryan," you might ask, "will praying for someone in discernment actually do anything? Will it change God's mind?"

No, I don't think it will change God's mind. But it may well change my mind. When I have a pain-in-the-A*% student, I do try to pray for him by name. I honestly don't think that my praying for him changes him one whit - although I do think there is a change. The change is in me: when I pray for God's grace to be with this kid, I am opening myself up to being a conduit of grace. I find that when I sit with a kid in prayer, it becomes harder for me to lose my patience, to be snippy and sarcastic, and I find that I look upon him with greater love and understanding. As my mind changes and my heart opens up - all by God's grace - the student experiences this and can slowly grow into it.

In other words, my pray for another carves out space within me. The change I often pray for actually takes place in my own heart and gives God's grace a chance to touch his heart through me. In praying in this way, I open myself up to God's mysterious ways and I trust that God knows what He is doing...even though it can be maddeningly difficult for me to understand it!

I say this because I do pray, each morning, for candidates by name. In praying for them, I am struck more and more by God's marvelous work in their lives and I grow more deeply attuned to the ways I might love and support them in their discernment. The prayer that I offer to sustain them, I find, works to sustain me who can then act in a prayer-guided way as one who wishes to help souls. I do not simply "say" prayers but I live (imperfectly) prayers.

Please do continue to pray for vocations. Pray for specific vocations. Yet do not be surprised if you start to see marvelous fruits from this prayer in your own life! The prayer hasn't backfired; it has, quite to the contrary, taken root in the deep soil of your heart and the fruit is bears will provide sustenance for others, nourishing them as they continue to seek how they are to live their lives for the Greater Glory of God.


Kelly_SSJ said...

well put!!!!! I know some of my best mentors, directors, have been awesome for just that reason. But...they also encouraged me to open up in prayer myself so that they and God knew what was going on interiorially and how to continue to pray with and for me.

Anne-Marie said...

As one who has often struggled with petitionary prayer, I want to thank you for this very clear explanation. Indeed, it's not about changing God's mind, even less telling/informing God of an event which troubles us, but through prayer to make room for him in our heart and mind.

KarlH said...

I recently found your blog, and though this post is ancient by internet standards, this illumination by Kierkegaard has often guided my prayer life:

"The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays."