Learning to Pray by Sarah Reinhard

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reinhard_sarahI’ve been Christian most of my life, though I tend to count the last eight years with a different weight, since becoming Catholic was more intentional than the Christianity of my youth.

Now, don’t go thinking that we didn’t pray.  Don’t think that we didn’t read Bible stories.  Don’t think that it was any different than it will likely be for my children.

It’s just that, now that I’m an adult, things are different.  For one thing, there’s the deposit of faith that I’ve found via the Catholic Church.  For another, I have a different level of interest than I did as a child.

One of the biggest hurdles I continue to face is that of prayer.

What, exactly, is prayer?

To some, it’s conversation with God.  To others, it’s a chance to present a laundry list of requests.  To still others, it’s an opportunity to complain.  To me, it’s a changing vista of experience that involves all of that and more.

When I’m at Adoration, nestled in the silence, prayer is often a letter.  When I read back over what I’ve written to God in my prayer journal, I find His touch in the words and phrases.

In the early mornings, prayer takes the shape of five mysteries, divided into groups of ten, in the rhythm of the rosary.  Every morning, while making my coffee and preparing lunches, folding laundry, and puttering around the house or nursing a hot cup, I show up for the School of Mary*.  Some mornings, I don’t get farther than just knowing the words.  Other mornings, I’m able to eke out a gradual realization of the wonder of whatever mystery has caught my attention.  (If I’m lucky, I can pay attention to all of them, but it’s safe to say that the norm is one out of five.)  By my calculations, I’ve advanced to about halfway through second grade.

In the rosary, I have found the path to prayer.  Sometimes, it’s the lifeline I need to give words to my despair, my frustrations, or my anger.  Other times, it’s a way of connecting with a Savior who seems distant and unreal.  When I walk through the mysteries with Mary, I find comfort and a challenge to continue.

The rosary has taught me that Jesus was human and that he struggled.  It’s led me to an appreciation of what God really gave us when He gave us His Son.  I’ve learned that praise can be as simple as a smile at the thought of the joy in heaven when Mary said Yes to God’s offer.

The classroom of the rosary feels demanding some days.  My “I don’t WANNA” voices clamor for something — anything — else.  My natural resistance to authority insists that God knows my heart and thoughts — why go to all the trouble?

And that brings me to the most important lesson I’ve learned about prayer, thanks to the rosary:  persistence.  God does know my heart and my mind, and that’s why it pleases Him even more when I integrate set prayer into my life.  It’s a sacrifice of time — probably the toughest kind in my life.

But, when I’m holding Mary’s hand in the morning, I find myself talking to her Son throughout the day and keeping His way in mind.

*See John Paul II’s apostolic letter “The Rosary of the Virgin Mary,” paragraph 1

Copyright 2009 Sarah Reinhard

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