Thursday, July 12, 2012

A.S.K. = Ask, Seek, Knock = 3 Steps Toward Praying Aloud With Others... a tip for the new evangelization

My latest column over at Patheos is an observation on the active avoidance Catholics apply when it comes to a very basic skill... leading another person in prayer for their sake, or the sake of others. It also offers a brief tutorial with the baby steps on how to overcome it... using a strategy that co-opts some of the words of Jesus: Ask, Seek, and Knock. Here's an excerpt:

I’ve learned that this praying-aloud-thing with another person is a skill that not all Catholics share an enthusiasm for. What I mean is that it is one thing to pray together at Mass, or to pray a rosary aloud with a group, or to pray a formal grace before meals. But it is entirely another experience to pray aloud, somewhat spontaneously, with the people you are with… even when they are Christians themselves, about a subject that is on their hearts and minds. 
Now, I’m not talking about my evangelical Christian friends, who are usually very open to praying-on-the-spot when asked. Their freedom to offer a word of prayer or thanksgiving in-the-moment is something worth emulating. 
Why don’t we Catholics act with the same freedom? 
I hear this thought often: We’re private. My religion is just between me and God. We Catholics love our private prayer… and rightly so. Jesus taught that when we pray we should close our doors and pray to our Father in heaven in secret. And that’s fine. That’s good. Let’s all do more of that, too. 
Maybe all that private prayer is why sharing prayer with another person sometimes feels too intimate… or we fear doing it wrong. But, really, it is nothing to fear because Jesus is there within the breaths of any group prayer… For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Mt 18: 20.)" 
Others have told me praying with others outside of Church is uncomfortable because we Catholics are raised with the formal vocal prayers of the Church -- all of which are wonderful, beautiful, and majestic -- but not with informal or spontaneous prayer -- that we don’t know any other ways to pray. 
Other times, we’re afraid to do something so spontaneous… we don’t want to be labeled as a Jesus freak, or a religious fanatic. 
From an evangelization standpoint, all these excuses are hard to square in front of Jesus who asked us to be active is in sharing the faith, when he said, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Mt 28: 19.)

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