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Sr Anastasia Reeves OP: Prayer is a worthwhile waste of our time

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Prayer can be a wonderful time of resting in God’s presence, writes Sr Anastasia Reeves OP. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Prayer can be a wonderful time of resting in God’s presence, writes Sr Anastasia Reeves OP. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“My family wouldn’t waste their time praying.” So I was once told by a 13-year-old student in a Catholic school far, far away. The comment was a little startling, but points to a deeper question: what is prayer and why would I bother praying? 

Perhaps we can think of prayer as only formulaic. Or perhaps it’s the thing we have to do before we can get on with life: before meals, before driving somewhere, before a meeting. In an efficiency-driven culture, prayer does seem wasteful because we don’t achieve or produce anything. 

In contrast, the Catholic tradition presents prayer as a heart-to-heart conversation with God who is love (cf. 1 Jn 4). It is a response to God who loves us more than we can hope or imagine.  

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In a sense, prayer is wasteful. Just as a newly married couple loves to waste time together, simply being in each other’s company, so prayer can be a wonderful time of resting in God’s presence, a reprieve from the frenetic pace of life in which we are compelled to accomplish, produce and impress. 

As part of the Year of Prayer, the Parish Renewal Team is hosting a presentation on Prayer and the Mission to Proclaim Jesus on Monday 18 March. Click here for information.

Sometimes I hear everyday Catholics wonder whether their prayers are worthwhile. We feel discouraged when our prayer is filled with distraction, worry, falling asleep, boredom, or we can’t see any answers to our prayers. We can start to wonder if we’re talking to ourselves. 

The Christian tradition reminds us that prayer is not a human accomplishment. Prayer itself is a gift from God. Our sincere attempts to pray, no matter how humble, are prayer nonetheless.  

Evagrius Ponticus, one of the early Church Fathers, reassures us: “Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask him; for he desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer.” 

It is no wonder that the church has called the entire Catholic world to be renewed through a Year of Prayer as we prepare for the 2025 Holy Year. We need to experience again and again the strength and freedom that prayer brings.  

As an initiative of the universal church, we can be confident that special graces will be given to us as we respond to this call.  

This Lent, let’s renew our commitment to pray, to waste time with God. If you find yourself distracted or worried, don’t give up, but bring your distractions to God. He wants to take care of everything.  

If you find yourself too busy to pray, ask the Lord of all time, to open up moments when you can rest in him. And as Pope Paul VI reminds us in Evangelica Testifactio, “If you have lost the taste for prayer, you will regain the desire for it by returning humbly to its practice.” 

 

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