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Sep 02, 2021 327 Teresa Ann Weider, USA
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Teach Me to Pray

Many a time we dwindle into cares and worries, and life gets messy. What’s the way out?

“What a world! What a world!” declared the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz” as she melted out of sight after being doused with a bucket of water. How often have we heard people use similar words because the world seems to be going a bit crazy? Problems and world issues can make us feel helpless, lost and drowning in buckets of negativity. We face challenges and a culture that grows messier every day. What a world! What a world!

Ripple Effect

While it is easy to blame “the world” for our problems, we are the individuals that collectively make up “the world”. Our actions or inactions have a ripple effect within our families and communities that continue rippling outward. Our lives touch the people around us and change them.

They in turn touch others. The global spread of the Covid-19 virus demonstrates how incredibly connected humanity is.

So why are we in such a mess?

Perhaps, it is because we have lost our way. Perhaps we are like the Apostle Peter who stepped out of the boat onto the water, but saw the storm raging and became frightened, and taking his eyes off Jesus began to sink (Matthew 14:30). When we take our eyes off Jesus, it is easy to lose our courage and sink into the problems that engulf us. Life can get messy very fast.

What does it mean to take our eyes off Jesus? I will explain by sharing my story. When my 4 children were young and our family life was extremely busy, my daily routine left little time to spend in prayer with God. However, each morning I invited Him to tag along with me in every activity. In addition to all my daily obligations, I had a strong interest in sewing. My desire to sew developed into a cottage industry that eventually grew so rapidly that I could not keep up.

After a full day caring for my family, I would sew when they slept. But weeks of operating on too little sleep, negatively changed my disposition, and that affected my family. A negative ripple effect was set in motion. One evening, I was exceptionally tired and facing another weary night of sewing, a dam of tears unlocked. Sobbing and full of frustration, I remembered that God tagged along with me all this time, so I thought it a good idea to blame Him for my situation. “Why God?” I asked. “Why did you give me the interest and the talent to sew and not give me the time to sew? WHY?”

Plugged Out

It seemed God had been waiting for me to ask that question, because as soon as it flew out of my mouth, He answered back, “Because I gave it to you for pleasure, not profit!” I was so stunned that the tears instantly halted and dried. I had no rebuttal. Suddenly I realized I had not sought God’s guidance or discerned His will before starting my sewing business. I had settled for letting Him “tag along”. I felt so ashamed. I had stepped out on my own and forgotten to pray. I placed Him behind me where I could not see Him. And with my eyes off Jesus I was sinking. My sewing business was having a negative ripple effect on me, my family and my world.

I had forgotten that God, who can and wants to help us, should lead, not follow behind me. But fortunately, there is help for us when we take our eyes off Jesus. Jesus told us, “Come to me, all who are weary and are overburdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) We shouldn’t seek comfort or answers from other people, things or the false gods of this world. Our first “go to” should always be to turn in prayer to our merciful God who patiently waits for us to seek Him out. Like with Saint Peter, God wants to extend His hand to us, save us, get in our boats and lead us to safety. And it all starts with “asking”. Jesus said it clearly in the Gospel of Saint Matthew:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened…If you who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him?” (Matthew 7:7-11)

Like a good parent, God established a few conditions for answering prayer. The Apostle John tells us “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). Our prayers cannot go against the will of God. So we need to know God and pray according to His will. (1 John 5:14)

How do we get to know God’s will? Jesus tells us, “If you remain in Me and My Words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) This means that to understand His will, we have to know Him. To get to know Him we have to pick up our Bibles. In sacred scripture we can hear Him, learn from Him and about Him, and understand His will. And then we must stay close to Him in prayer and through the Sacraments.

A Promise Forever

Saint Paul also weighs in on the subject of prayer. He tells us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Paul is clear that we should not let the worries of the world weigh us down. We need to approach God with a trusting and thankful heart. If we realized we are asking for help from the Creator of the Universe who loves us and can do anything, would we be anxious about anything?

In the Gospel according to Saint Mark, Jesus tells us, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (11:24). If we truly believe God will answer our prayers we should be thankful even before it is answered, because we know it will be answered. There is a saying floating around the internet that says, “Don’t tell God how big your problems are. Tell your problems how big God is!” Good advice that can help place our problems into a smaller perspective.

For many of us the idea of prayer is daunting. We want to turn to God in prayer, but we may not know where to begin. Many years ago, my life felt burdensome. I knew I needed to pray, but did not know how. I asked for help and God answered by sending the Holy Spirit to guide me. The following prayer filled my being so quickly that I felt I had merely penned what the Holy Spirit dictated.

Dear Jesus,

Teach me to pray, Lord.

Teach me to pray so that I may know you.

Teach me to pray for the things that please You and lead me into Your perfect will for my life.

Teach me to pray with all of my senses….my eyes, my ears, my nose, my mouth, my touch.

Teach me to pray with my eyes, by only looking at and for things that glorify You.

Teach me to pray with my ears, by hearing only affirming truths that venerate You.

Teach me to pray with my nose. Remind me of Your Breath of Life and Your Holy Spirit that rests within me, as my lungs fill with each breath.

Teach me to pray with my words so that they exalt You and Your precious name.

Teach me to pray with my hands by reaching out in love, to others in Your name.

Teach me to remember to pray.

Teach me to pray by calling to You for guidance in all my needs.

Teach me to pray in and through the turmoils of my life.

Teach me to pray for others and bring to mind their intentions as if they were my own.

Teach me to know Your truth, Your way, Your peace, Your grace and Your protection.

Teach me to pray in thanksgiving for the blessings and graces You generously bestow on me.

Teach me to calm my mind and pray in silence so that I may hear Your words to me.

Teach me to pray that I may be able to hear and know Your Holy Spirit in me, so that I may recognize when the Master is addressing me, His servant.

Teach me to pray that I may love you with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength and with all my mind.

Teach me to allow my whole life to be a prayer to You.

Jesus, I ask you to be with me.

Jesus, I invite you to reside in me.

Jesus, I humbly request You to work through me.

Jesus, Teach me to pray. Amen.

I invite you to pray this prayer and remember that though we might be weary of the trials in this world, we certainly are not helpless. We have the power of prayer!

Now for the rest of Peter’s story. When Peter realized he had taken his eyes off Jesus and began to drown, he did not give up. He yelled out, “Lord! Save me!”. And at once Jesus put His hand out and held him! And as they both got into the boat, the wind dropped.

Now for the rest of my story…When I realized I had taken my eyes off Jesus and was drowning in too many activities and lack of sleep, I too asked Jesus to save me. He got into my boat and redirected my life. I completed my obligations and then turned my sewing into a pleasurable, relaxing activity.

Prayer changes things for us and the world around us. If we pray for ourselves and others, we can create a positive ripple effect. My prayer is that someday soon, instead of lamenting “What a world! What a world!”, we will echo Louis Armstrong’s classic song: “What a Wonderful World”.

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Teresa Ann Weider

Teresa Ann Weider serves the Church remarkably through her active involvement in various ministries over the years. She lives with her family in Folsom, California, USA.

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