A Word in Season
A.S.K.: Ask, Seek, Knock -- Three Steps toward Praying with Others
In almost every program I try to stop and pray with my listener, even if it is just a brief closing prayer before I say goodbye. Sometimes it's a spontaneous prayer that I lead; sometimes it's a formal and recognizable vocal prayer of the Church. In fact, I used to worry that maybe I was being too forward by doing so. Guess what? It's just the opposite. If I suggest a moment of prayer in the show, often the listener pauses with me, and there we are together, heads bowed for a moment to pray with each other.
In doing this, both online and in person over the years, I've learned a few things. On some occasions, I've become the only person who has ever prayed aloud with this person outside of formal communal prayer like the Mass. Second, I may be encouraging someone who has not yet prayed that day and who really needs it. And finally, I don't have to worry about whether that prayer is effective or that it "worked"—that's God job. My job is to just be loving and friendly when we pray. Then leave the results to God.
Here's what I believe: People need the Lord, and people need to pray in settings outside the Mass. Jesus has asked us to pray without ceasing (See 1 Thess. 5: 17.) For many of us, that means we need to start somewhere to amp-up our prayer. We need to pray in our homes, on our lunch hour at work, at the ball field, on a walk. In terms of my own anecdotal evidence, all I can say is, when I've asked someone if they'd like me to pray with them, I'm very rarely turned down. But I'm not offended if they pass on the idea, either.
I've learned that this praying-aloud-thing with another person is a skill that not all Catholics share an enthusiasm for. What I mean is that it is one thing to pray together at Mass, or to pray a rosary aloud with a group, or to pray a formal grace before meals. But it is another experience entirely to pray aloud, somewhat spontaneously, with the people you are with, even when they are Christians themselves, about a subject that is on their hearts and minds.
Now, I'm not talking about my evangelical Christian friends, who are usually very open to praying-on-the-spot when asked. Their freedom to offer a word of prayer or thanksgiving in-the-moment is something worth emulating.
Why don't we Catholics act with the same freedom?
I hear this thought often: We're private. My religion is just between me and God. We Catholics love our private prayer, and rightly so. Jesus taught that when we pray we should close our doors and pray to our Father in heaven in secret. And that's fine. That's good. Let's all do more of that, too.
Maybe all that private prayer is why sharing prayer with another person sometimes feels too intimate, or we fear doing it wrong. But, really, it is nothing to fear because Jesus is there within the breaths of any group prayer: "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt. 18: 20).
Some have told me praying with others outside of Church is uncomfortable because we Catholics are raised with the formal vocal prayers of the Church (all of which are wonderful, beautiful, and majestic) but not with informal or spontaneous prayer—that we don't know any other ways to pray.
Other times, we're afraid to do something so spontaneous; we don't want to be labeled as a Jesus freak, or a religious fanatic.
Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press. Subscribe to “A Word in Season” via email or RSS.