Some Reflections I Have About Prayer as a Catholic

Some Reflections I Have About Prayer as a Catholic

by Jem De Ocampo

So how the heck can we get ourselves reoriented about the true value of prayer in this more secularized 21st Century world, whether public or private?


I’m more of a private prayer guy. But for some reason, public prayer is important.

Then again, Our Lord Jesus Christ did say that “For when two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). That, and “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We gotta go public with the good stuff eventually, basically, and without compromise, of course. Prayer’s definitely included in all that good stuff, too.

But lately, I’ve been finding disappointment in how we’re praying today. Not just me, but also you. I don’t know if you’d agree, but public prayer’s getting watered down by stuff like a lack of awareness of our sinfulness, while private prayer’s getting attacked by popular overemphasis on publicity. As a result, we feel like praying in public feels boring and robotic, while praying in private feels useless and stupid. I don’t think they’re very new problems, considering Biblical history, but they’re still problems, and they know how to update themselves and blend in, too.

So how the heck can we get ourselves reoriented about the true value of prayer in this more secularized 21st Century world, whether public or private?

If you ask me, I’d like us to consider some common prayer practices: the ACTSO (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication, and Offering), addresses to the Holy Trinity, calls for Mama Mary and the Communion of Saints to intercede for us, and references to Scripture.

Now how do we make something more worthwhile out of those practices? Let’s go by all those one by one.


Adoration

We don’t just say “God is good all the time.” I mean, what do we mean when we say He’s good, for one? And how is His good any different and better than all the other definitions we sinful humans have for the word “good” out there?

With this, we can’t make things up, of course. We should understand how good He is first. But before we understand, we have to believe. Besides, we wouldn’t pray to Him if we don’t believe in Him and how He’s someone worth praying to, yeah?

Now how exactly do we know how good He is? There’s Scripture, and there’s also Tradition. Don’t forget ordinary life, too. He’s all over the place. Whatever good there is in life, it’s ultimately His work and not ours. We sinful humans are only worthy of praise because of His power, which we can choose not to work through us.

In Internet artist-speak, adoration is not going “Credit goes to the original artist” when we share His work to others. Adoration is when we humbly link His work back to Him while following His guidelines for using and sharing them. Let us have our appreciation inspire others into loving Him according to His will, everyone.


Confession

Speaking of sources, you feel like we use the word “original” for lack of a better term? Or maybe we just use it because we’re so full of ourselves. Wouldn’t put it past us, really.

And I’m sure a lot of us already know how twisted we are. But you know, confessing one’s sins, whether in prayer or through the Sacrament, isn’t an act where we just say “Yeah, I’m a sinner” or “Yeah, we’re sinners.” Confession implies that we’re going to repent. And by repenting, we mean two things: 1) We will stop doing our sins; and 2) we will start growing our virtues. Without repentance, we’re either self-loathing (if our confession is regretful) or boasting (if our confession isn’t regretful). Only with repentance can we be truly humble with our confession, whether public or private.

Needless to say, expect pain when repenting. But at least God’s love will exceed our usually dumb expectations.


Thanksgiving

Without wholehearted thanksgiving for God Almighty, we’re just a bunch of leeches futilely trying to butter Him up. And while He may be slow to anger, we sinful humans more easily become arrogant without a sense of gratitude for Him.

Also, going further with that Internet artist-speak I did earlier, God (and any other human) is not someone to be a stan (or a stalker fan) or even a fan (or a fanatic) of. That sort of thing is a form of believing in lies and doubting the truth. Remember when Saint Peter and most of his fellow Jews back then went stan/fan for Jesus? Yeah, that happened. Let’s not be like that. And let’s not think that God won’t help us improve. And speaking of lack of better terms again, I guess the word “fan” can be considered similar to the word “original” there, then, huh? XD

Oh, and while being thankful for big pieces of goodness is definitely encouraged, it’s not really so lame to be thankful for even the smallest pieces of goodness. Remember how the cell is the basic unit of life and how the atom is the basic unit of matter? I may not be someone who hears a calling towards the path of a scientist, but I’m sure that we don’t learn about those things to show ourselves off and one-up each other. We learn about them to better understand how to improve human living for God’s sake. So let’s appreciate all those little things as well.


Supplication

Usually the first and even the only thing we remember and do when we practice prayer, which is pretty ironic when considering how, according to Merriam-Webster, the word is defined with the sense that we’re asking humbly and earnestly. It’s certainly needed, as we sinful humans are all unprofitable scraps in the face of our loving God, but you and I often make the mistake of assuming that He will give us whatever we want whenever we’re suffering and allow us to just leave Him forgotten in the background whenever we’re frolicking. Like it or not, the truth is that He’ll give us what we want if it’s in line with what He thinks we need.

And speaking of what He thinks we need, we also have a bad habit of assuming that we know everything about what He thinks we need. Worse, we even claim that we know better than Him about what we sinful humans really need. Believe it or not, God is always above those bad bosses we rant about on a daily basis. He’s always around to help, and He knows everything about what we need, but we have to believe in Him and the power of His help first, even as His answers to our pleas aren’t going to be what we expect.

Again, we wouldn’t pray to Him if we don’t believe in Him and how He’s someone worth praying to. Whether public or private, if we try praying to Him without lovingly believing in Him first, then we’re just a bunch of arrogant jerks who deserve to have His opened door shut closed on our faces until we clean up our act. And when we do act like the humble faithful we should be, we’ll find Him and His help closer to us than we think.


Offering

The last but definitely not the least part of the ACTSO, though none of the parts are really higher or lower than each other in terms of importance. If we have to do one part, then we have to do the rest, and of course, we will have to offer ourselves to the Lord as we pray. With humility, we will have to praise and thank God and ask for His help as we offer our crappy yet repenting selves to Him.

And indeed, we should already know that we have true goodness that requires more growth. Obviously nothing to brag about to anyone, but definitely something to offer to God. Only with Him do we become truly worthwhile.

Besides, if we’re still so afraid about being servants, especially His servants, then let’s remember how He served us here on earth, even to the point of taking what we can consider the worst humiliation we can give. If we’re worried or even eager about looking controversial, then let’s remember how sparking controversy is, at best, a byproduct of the transformations God’s power causes, not a form for us fools to actively transform into even in God’s name. In other words, being a witness to God is bound to seem controversial, but that is no justification to sin, let alone in God’s name.

In short, I repeat: Be more than a stan/fan.


Addressing the Holy Trinity

Mystery the Holy Trinity may be, but it’s definitely not something to take for granted. And again, we can’t know without believing first. Actively remembering how there is One God in Three Divine Persons should help us steer clear of assuming Him to be someone else.

For example, think about how the Cross is invoked not just with Christ but also with the whole Holy Trinity in the Sign of the Cross. Whether Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, our loving God sacrifices Himself for us.

And think about how a son has to have a father. Think about how a father should have a son. Think about how a son becomes a father and how a father has to be a son first. Think about how a force makes them exist and how they’re a force over what makes them exist. What do you think about all that, then?


Calling for Mama Mary and the Communion of Saints to intercede for us

Again, we don’t worship them. We venerate them. Why? One, the Saints were sinners before, and even a stan/fan can easily understand the problem with worshipping them there. Two, the Immaculately Conceived Mama Mary is a reminder of how humanity is God’s servant at best.

And I bet that that’s the thing that Lucifer hates about Mama Mary. He isn’t content with being the greatest among God’s Creation. He wants to be as great as and even greater than God Himself. We sinful humanity have tricked ourselves into thinking that it’s the ideal we should live for, too, and not just today, but ever since the beginning, when Adam and Eve chose to believe in the weak serpent that lied even to itself more than in our ever-loving God who loved us first.

Thus, we venerate those humans who became the unique servants they should really be while fully embracing God and His love. It’s not just about us sinful humanity admitting and loathing our sinfulness, but also about recognizing and spreading the truth about how God not only rules over us but also cares for us way better than we think. And it should already be obvious that God will listen to His greatest Creations up there with Him in heaven. They know their place, but they are not slaves.


References to Scripture

Remember that even the Devil knows Scripture. Of course, he just uses his knowledge of it to lead us astray, but still, he can seem very convincing. Referencing Scripture well requires good reasoning backed up by faith. Plus, Scripture is filled with many prayers, and what new ones we make are bound to be building on them.

And on the topic of public prayer and private prayer, let’s consider these verses:

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be sen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6).

So why do public prayer, then? My answer to that is this: We’re supposed to be humble in prayer. And public prayer is private prayer but with a lot more people participating. Public prayer is pretty much taking our basic prayer skills to higher heights, and higher heights means more difficult breathing. And speaking of more difficult breathing, that’s probably among what we’ll feel when we expose ourselves, both as twisted culprits and needy victims, to each other while exposing ourselves to God in prayer.


And those are the insights I realized while also writing those prayers I also made as my June 2020 blog posts. Thinking about them some more, they feel quite basic, but again, small things make up big things, so I’d like to praise and thank God very much again, especially since I find it really embarrassing that my usually creepy ass is figuring out all these things just now. And I still need to learn more and work better about being properly prayerful in silence and solitude, even as I’m more inclined to such a setup. X”D

So after this, back to the more usual blogging I go. I don’t know when I’ll exactly do something like this again, if ever. Whatever happens, though, God Almighty keep on helping us all!

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