It’s never too late to learn to pray

There are many distractions for young people trying to pray

I am going to talk about prayer. “Pfft” you say to me. “Prayer is only for small children and I’m much too old and sophisticated for that!” And I’ll say to you, “You’re half right, prayer is indeed for small children, because that’s how God, our loving Father sees us! Despite all this so-called ‘sophistication’ we’ve acquired over the years, in God’s eyes we’ll always be nothing but children. So when we go to pray we must act accordingly and consider ourselves no older than two years old! OK, three years old at the very, very most.”

You have many doubts and reservations about praying. You mightn’t even know where to begin. All your prayers that you learned when you were younger are a hazy memory or you’ve just kind of given up on them over the years. Don’t worry and take these wise words of St Josemaria Escriva; “You don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in the presence of God, and as soon as you have said, ‘Lord I don’t know how to pray!’ you can be sure you’ve already begun.”

I can assure you Jesus is always listening when you pray, and I’m sure he’d be moved to pity by this simple but profound sentiment. Tell Jesus everything that’s going on with you, especially if you haven’t been talking to him for a while. Tell him about your dreams and aspirations in life, along with all your worries and anxieties. On a more basic level still you could talk to him about things such as your day at school; the craic you had with your friends, your struggles with teachers or even about that extremely beautiful girl you can’t seem to get out of your head! He’s all ears.

Human beings

Here’s a few things to note before you go to prayer. One of the main things to keep in mind is that prayer is a battle. It isn’t easy. This is due to our fallen nature as human beings – we have an extremely weak will. We might start off with the intention of setting out some time for prayer but we often get side tracked.

The road to prayer is hazardous with potential pitfalls that can swallow us up. Distractions away from prayer are infinite and can range from that episode of Breaking Bad you must watch, to that tantalising unopened Snapchat on your phone that you must see, to that high score on Flappy Bird you must beat. Before you know it, you’ve watched three Breaking Bad episodes, sent out 50 snaps, you’ve gotten nowhere on Flappy Bird and there’s no time left for prayer. If this is continuously happening pray that God will give you a stronger will and really resolve to give God a few minutes of your time every day.

Some obstacles to prayer run much deeper. You might be angry with God. Perhaps you asked him for something and your petition went unheeded and this led to you giving up on prayer altogether. This is the worst thing you could possibly do. Prayer is like oxygen for the soul and without it we undergo a spiritual suffocation of sorts. When I’m at my wits end and I’m in desperate need of God’s aid I recite the prayer “May your most just will be praised, fulfilled and eternally exalted above all things amen” over and over again.

The rosary

When I find I’m in a dark tunnel and can see no way out, I don’t rely on my limited human intuition but wholly place myself into God’s loving arms. I don’t ask for what

I think best but ask for his will to be done, in the full knowledge he knows my utmost heart’s desires better than I do. Before you know it, he’ll probe your heart with his questions and the way forward will become apparent, probably in the way you least expect. The ball is then in your court, you can either take a leap of faith and follow him, or take the easy option and stay put.

A very powerful prayer, which I try to say at least once a day, is the rosary. This is a very special meditative prayer which reflects on the life, death and glory of Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother. The rosary consists of the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious mysteries and each mystery is made up of five decades of an Our Father, ten Hail Marys and a Glory Be. To say the rosary well, you should not try to rattle it off as fast as you can and without thought, this will make it seem turgid and monotonous. But rather you must engage all faculties at your disposal when you say it: thought, imagination, emotion and desire. The whole works! By meditating on the mysteries of Jesus’ life and then trying to imitate them, I promise you will truly come to the knowledge of the love Jesus and be in union with him.

Increase my faith

The insights I get from saying the rosary never cease to amaze me; you could spend a lifetime pondering the mysteries of Jesus’ life and never get tired of it. Part of its beauty is that anyone from a young child to the wisest scholar can say it. I’m reading a book called The Secret of the Rosary by St Louis de Monfort at the moment and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants to find out more about this most amazing prayer.

Perseverance, perseverance, perseverance! That’s the secret to prayer. Pray at the best of the times, to the worst of times. When your soul is overcome with doubt and despair, don’t give up rather like the apostles exclaim; “Lord, increase my faith!” Be comforted by Jesus’ promise that he always answers our prayers. “Ask and it shall given to you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened onto you.” (Mark 7:7)

A favourite saint of mine sums up perseverance in prayer well when he says; “To persevere. A child knocking at the door, knocks once, twice…many times and loud and long-shamelessly! And the anger of whoever comes to open is dispelled by the simplicity of the disturbing little creature. So you are with God.”

*Sean Hurley is a fifth year student at Mercy Mounthawk Secondary School, Tralee, Co. Kerry. Article reprinted, with permission from Position Papers, Dublin.