By Amber Chinnapper Ephesians 6:18: Pray at all times in the Spirit The topic of prayer can be challenging, especially because prayer is so personal and most of us struggle with making the effort to pray regularly. But we can’t deny that it is an imperative part of our faith: metaphysical interaction with God. Without it, how would we be able to develop and nurture a relationship with our Creator? It is also the means by which we can find great peace and resolution; as Jesus says, ‘Knock, and the door will be opened to you.’ (Matthew 7) ‘To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will “give whatever he needs,” and above all the Holy Spirit contains all gifts’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2613) . However, in this day and age when time is money and there is little regard for the tender needs of our spirits, it can be difficult to ‘schedule’ regular prayer time into our days which are overshadowed by secular demands. In my mind there are two general types of prayer: the more ‘traditional’ kind, and the kind which is ‘self-formulated’. Both can be spiritually enriching and important for our personal relationships with God. The Church offers us a vast multitude of traditional prayers; beautiful, poignant devotions and invocations generated from the sincere yearnings and adorations of souls before us. To this day we say the traditional prayer Jesus himself gave us, the ‘Our Father’ (Matthew 6: 9-15). The ‘Hail Mary’ is another stunning traditional prayer powerfully combined with the words of Gabriel the Archangel, St Elizabeth, and a more personalised plea formulated by the Church. During my pilgrimage to Medjugorje, I came to experience the deep peace, liberation, and elation that such prayers can bring. I learned to incorporate them into my daily routines. But once I returned to the secular realm, I found it difficult to maintain this truly wonderful way of ‘living prayer’. The key to these various forms of traditional prayer is a state of meditation and reciting the words with heart-felt meaning while personalising them despite their universal structure. It is easy to rattle them off by rote, but rather difficult to quiet our minds and find a place of meaningful focus amidst worldly demands and distractions. Nonetheless, God just wants us to try our best, even if we consciously set aside a few minutes a day to nourish our spiritual life through this way of prayer. Mary has repeatedly reiterated the power of the rosary through her apparitions, but she also promotes another great form of prayer through her Medjugorje messages: one Creed, and 7 ‘Our Fathers’, ‘Hail Marys’ and ‘Glory Be’s’. This is called a ‘peace chaplet’ (intended for peace in the world, between each other, and within ourselves) which is shorter than a normal rosary, but also powerful and fulfilling. It is also a great way of progressing towards the full rosary. What I have learned through my prayer life is that it is best not to completely rely on a specifically scheduled time for traditional prayer. While it is important that I try to maintain a time for traditional prayer, there have been times when unexpected distractions or circumstances have prevented me from praying in my structured time. Furthermore, sometimes I am not in the right frame of mind to pray at a set time, or even to pray traditional prayers. Then, what would tend to happen is I wouldn’t pray all together. I have come to realise that being gentle on ourselves is important as prayer shouldn’t be regimented or chore-based. Owing to this, ‘self-formulated’ prayer is also important. Mary’s message to ‘be prayer’ (August 2015) enhances the meaning of this kind of prayer. She is not simply asking us to view prayer solely as spiritual communication formulated by concretised words and language. This is but an aspect of prayer. It is more than this. To ‘be’ prayer we need to make it all the more integral and personal in our lives. We are being called to be living prayers. Obviously this cannot possibly mean that we need to be constantly verbalising prayers (whether aloud or in our minds) as this would stunt our relationships with our fellow human beings! In addition to our ‘linguistic’ prayers, we can transform our feelings and experiences into prayers. This can be done by simply offering them up to God in adoration, confession, thanks-giving, supplication (‘ACTS’) or even just acknowledgment of His presence. If we are experiencing a trial, we can offer up our suffering as an offering for the conversion of sinners, for the souls in Purgatory, or whatever may be in need of prayer. In that way the whole experience becomes one less of a burden and more of a fruit. With this perspective and practice of prayer we can immerse ourselves into a constant awareness of God’s presence everywhere – He is the great ‘I am’, the pure presence and purpose of being, constantly reaching out to us, yearning for us to be in a relationship of existence with Him. Our hearts in prayer should not be confined; they need to be free to seek the magnitude of God at any time and for any reason. We should allow our beings to relax into prayer: in our pains and sufferings; our joys and excitements; our confusion and our pensive moments; our admirations and our anxieties. All these experiences of our human nature can be conscious prayers just as they are, independent of specific words. Jesus has given us the best example of ‘being’ prayer through His own life. The Lord shows us the significance of traditional forms of prayer through his teaching of the ‘Our Father’ as well as through his own repetition of prayers: ‘So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words’ (Matthew 26:44). He also reminds us not to rely too much on how many words we say in prayer (Matthew 6:7). St Paul’s writings enlighten us further when he says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). About the Author Amber Chinnapper Many times I have felt born in the wrong era. But God destined me for this one, so here I am! I am a woman who has learning to embrace and enjoy her many facets. I am artitsic, wild, traditional, and I feel deeply about the essence and truth of our individual beings. I am inspired by Mary the Mother of Jesus; classic literature and poetry; the vintage and the simple; Native American wisdom and connections to God and His creation. I need to spend time in nature and open spaces, and although I have recently moved to New Zealand, I love South Africa, my home soil. I have an inner yearning to create and to embrace health and fitness. Family life is incredibly important to me.