At 8 a.m. of Sept. 6, we deemed it important to start our first trip to the United States after the global pandemic to hear Mass at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Nutley, New Jersey.
We always hear Mass in this solemn sanctuary whenever we are in the area, and I was extremely glad we did. Fr. Alex Barbieto gave the Mass and his short and simple homily was a sweet awakening that I would like to share to all. The homily was about prayer.
Fr. Alex said that we shouldn’t pray only when we need something or when we are not too busy. “We should pray even more when we are busy because that means we need the guidance and protection of the Lord in the many things we are doing,” he said.
How can one not pray? According to Padre Pio, “Prayer is the oxygen of the soul.” Fr. Alex also said that God answers prayers in His time. Prayer is powerful and it really works.
He then shared a story that happened years ago in Europe.
He was with a pilgrimage group touring Spain, Italy and France. He had a bag with his camera, passport and an envelope containing $2,500. In one of the refreshment stops, he completely lost track of the bag in his possession and did not discover it missing until they were already five hours away in another pilgrimage site.
He was distraught and that was when the pilgrims formed a circle and fervently prayed for the return of his bag untouched. He admitted he doubted it would work, but participated nonetheless.
Prayer is not so much an act as it is an attitude — an attitude of dependency, dependency upon God.
Days passed. When the group was about to board the bus after checking out from a hotel in France, the front desk clerk called him and informed him that a box addressed to him just arrived. Fr. Alex nervously opened the package and was tearfully surprised to see his bag, which had all of its original contents intact.
Don’t stop praying because you don’t seem to be getting any answers. Don’t stop praying because you do not have time. Fr. Alex said that you can always find time to say a prayer. As Mother Teresa said: “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”
Praying requires your presence. You have to be present not only physically, but wholly with your heart and mind. Putting yourself in prayer is a submission to a greater power. It is a grateful acceptance that you belong to His family and a burning faith that you need not worry because He is in control and He provides — with perfect timing.
“Don’t worry about having the right words; worry more about having the right heart. It’s not eloquence he seeks, just honesty,” was book author Max Lucado’s insight about prayer. And fear not when words escape you; in fact, sometimes you can get lost in those wordy jumbles. Just be still, empty your mind and be present. “God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer,” Mother Teresa reminded us.
“Prayer is not so much an act as it is an attitude — an attitude of dependency, dependency upon God,” said pastor and theologian Arthur Pink. There is also this popular and beautiful quote you see online: “When prayers become your habit, miracles become your lifestyle.” (Author unknown.)
— Motivational Quotes (@DrJerryFowler) July 16, 2020
It is hard to find time when you are forcing yourself. Prayer is a reflection of your personal relationship with God. If you see yourself as part of His family, then it is second nature to thank and greet Him before you sleep at night, and when you wake up in the morning.
Prayer is a conviction, it is a way of life. If you spend at least two hours in traffic then that’s a lot of time to soak in prayer. You can silently talk to Him in your thoughts while on the road, or you can listen to praise and worship songs, a spiritual podcast, online prayer, or Bible studies.
You can utter short prayers before every meeting, summoning His presence to inspire a productive outcome that benefits all. You can say a prayer for difficult people you are about to encounter and pray for them to be open to clarification and creative solutions to current problems.
You can do the same while cooking meals, washing dishes, doing your gardening, ironing clothes, or whatever occupies your time. I find it so energizing to do my “power walks” while listening to prayer, songs or even the Mass celebration. It is doubly fulfilling to exercise both the body and soul.
Please don’t take this tip the wrong way. It is still best to find your silent and solemn space where you can talk to Him privately, peacefully and intimately. It doesn’t matter if it’s 15 minutes or one hour. What matters is it’s from the heart.