I love the word “prayerfulness” because it has full in it. To be full of prayer. It’s a good image! A life worth living is one that is full of prayer. I’ve read my chapter now a few times. There is so much to discover! As I sat down to write this reflection, I was struck by something surprising. I don’t think I’ve ever consider prayerfulness as a virtue. Yes, prayer is of course a critical element to cultivating the virtues and we are all called to pray. But a virtue in and of itself? We have to unpack that.
In my thinking, the virtues are similar to attitudes, dispositions or postures. We live with an attitude of generosity, gratitude and loyalty, we have a disposition of faith, charity and hope, use our time and talents with prudence. Prayer is a part of all these things. Indeed, Emily quotes St. Ephrem of Syria:
Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves self-control, pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man and woman to Heaven.
Without prayer, we wouldn’t know which virtues we need to work on. Emily doesn’t pull any punches. She says flat out, no questions asked, that in order for anyone to call themselves a Christian they must have the virtue of prayerfulness. Prayer is our communication and relationship with our Heavenly Father. To be a Christian is to have an intimacy with our Creator that is informed by Jesus Christ and strengthened through a relationship with the Holy Spirit. All of this takes place in and through prayer. This means that prayer is more than something we do, it is something we are. Now prayerfulness is starting to make sense.
What friends better exemplify prayerfulness than the Blessed Mother and Elizabeth? Mary, full of grace, is quite literally full of prayer. “The Blessed Mother was the first evangelist in the New Testament. She brought Christ, still in the womb, to Elizabeth and her unborn child to proclaim the Good News” (118). Their first encounter is one of intimate prayer where Elizabeth proclaims “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Mary responds with the Magnificat. The women give themselves over completely to God’s plan, combining prayer and service through which salvation enters the world.
So what does the virtue of prayerfulness look like today for each of us? Certainly it means praying. But I think for me it is more than that. Prayerfulness is finding an attitude, a manner of speaking and thinking, that is rooted in and at the same time is oriented toward prayer. Kind of like how the liturgy is both source and summit of our Christian life – prayerfulness is discovering how all parts of our day are opportunities for prayer.
I think the biggest lesson I’m taking away from this chapter is that prayer isn’t an option. It’s a lesson that I have learned before and will probably continue learning my whole life. My life will never be prayer-full unless I give it priority. My friendships will never be prayer-full if I’m not both praying for my friends and bringing Christ into the friendship. Finally, prayer quickly grows stale when it is not other-focused. Mary and Elizabeth’s friendship grew through both their prayer and service to one another. What good would it have been for Mary to show up, pray with Elizabeth, and then turn around and leave? The same holds true for our friendships today. There is an old Latin phrase from the Benedictines: ora et labora. Prayer and work. Our prayer should move us to service, which in turn points us right back to prayer.
To Ponder, Reflect and Discuss:
- Have you considered if there is a difference between the action of praying and having an overall attitude of prayerfulness? If yes, what are some ways you can incorporate a more prayerful disposition to your daily living?
- How can I better connect prayer and service? Is there an opportunity where I can serve a friend in need, especially if it is someone I have prayed for already?
- How can we, as a community of friends, pray for one another? I think I can speak for the Catholicmom.com community when I say we would love to be able to pray for you. If you have a prayer intention, please post it so that together we can cover one another in prayer and love.
See the video for this week’s chapter, plus download a printable journal and more at The Friendship Project Group Study page.
Thank you for participating in this book club! If you missed any chapters and would like to catch up, you can access the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club on The Friendship Project Book Club page.
Copyright 2017 Kate Taliaferro