Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 16, 2009
Praying All Ways matches prayer and person
All prayer asks is that we discern God's voice from society's hub-bub
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Spiritual director Patricia Macdonald describes many of the ways of prayer.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON – Reciting a famous quote, “Pray as you can, not as you cannot,” Patricia Macdonald emphasized the belief that people use varied methods to build their relationship with God.
Prayer is a personal response to God’s loving presence in all of life. The goal of prayer is, essentially, coming to notice God within our lives. It is approaching God with an open heart.
“Many people have a desire or a hunger to encounter God. The way that we encounter God is through prayer. Prayer is a time of going aside in solitude, and prayer from that solitude spills over into our daily lives so that everything becomes prayer,” said Macdonald, an adult educator and spiritual director with Providence Renewal Centre.
PRAYING ALL WAYS
Her March 7 retreat on the subject, Praying All Ways, involved exploring various pathways to prayer.
“We are not all the same. We have different temperaments, different personalities. Some of us might be attracted to a prayer that has a lot of imagery or active prayer. Other people might be attracted to something that is a little bit more passive or quiet,” she said.
God speaks through nature, another person, and in the Sacred Scriptures. Part of prayer is listening, and discerning God’s voice from the other mishmash of voices that call us to take action.
“We have our own voice, we have the voice of the world, and we have the voice of others. God can speak through all of these things, but we need a discerning part to distinguish where God is and how God is calling us, speaking to us and leading us closer.”
Thirty-one people signed up for Praying All Ways, including Audrey Shea, who said that the desire to improve her prayer life is what drew her to the retreat day.
“I just want to become closer and have a deeper prayer life with the Lord. That’s why I’m here,” said Shea, later adding, “It’s so much of a person’s life and we’re always seeking. There are times in a person’s life, if you didn’t have prayer, you’d be really lost.”
Stan and Nettie Chajkowski were also in attendance. Admittedly, his wife talked him into coming out, but he also said that he had an interest in learning more about meditation. His wife said, “Praying All Ways is a very interesting topic. Meeting God through guided imagery is interesting.”
Meeting God through guided imagery is a prayer technique involving relaxation using the breath and going inside one’s own self to experience God.
“Basically in prayer, God takes the initiative and keeps the initiative. The main thing that we need to do is carve out the times, the place, the space, so that we can have a discipline for showing up. Then prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit,” said Macdonald.
There are two types of contemplative prayer in the Catholic tradition — apophatic and kataphatic.
“The apophatic is a more imageless way of praying, like the centering prayer. This is a way of letting go, an emptying, so that we can come to that union with God who dwells in the centre of our being. It’s a surrendering,” she explained.
Kataphatic is the more active way of praying, such as lectio divina or divine reading. This method is a way of taking Bible passages and integrating them into prayer.
“We could repeat a phrase from Scripture or we could put ourselves right into the scene. We can pray with our senses in that type of prayer, focusing on the Gospel passage.”
FOUR KINDS OF PRAYER
There are four kinds of prayer: adoration (praising God), contrition (asking God for forgiveness), petition (asking God for a favour) and thanksgiving (showing God gratitude).
Praying to the saints is often misunderstood. While adoration is restricted exclusively to God, petition is asking a saint for a favour. The saint is not being worshipped, but simply acts as a mediator between God and the praying person.
“We can definitely pray to the great saints that have been canonized in our Church.
“Of course, there are other great saints that we have known in our ancestry, people who have died, who have been special people in our lives, and passed on the seeds of faith to us, grandparents, relatives, friends. Definitely we can ask them to intercede on our behalf,” said Macdonald.