My faith is personal. But I'm called to share it.
The Year of Faith that Pope Benedict called for beginning this October will have church folks scurrying to do special events in their parishes and dioceses for the sake of the New Evangelization. That's all well and good, but let us also remember, from an evangelization perspective, that faith is often caught, not taught; it is shared person-to-person and heart-to-heart, as well as in church settings.
Our personal witness to the faith is just as important as the global church's proclamation of it. Recent columns here have suggested how to share your faith by telling the Jesus Moment in your life, tithing on social media, and doing the holy work of intercession. Today, therefore, I'd like to strongly make this new suggestion as something doable within our own spheres of influence: pray with each other.
That may seem like a given.
When was the last time a Catholic friend asked you to pray with them on-the-spot? (If you answered in the affirmative, you are in a vital minority. Please pray for the rest of us.)
Sure, we're all about going to Mass together. It's the perfect prayer, after all. It is the prayer of the church, the local community, and where we join our personal prayers to the prayer of Jesus offered in the Eucharist. Yes, that truly is the most sublime way we pray with each other. Keep it up. Do that more. Invite a friend or neighbor to join you.
But that's not what I mean. For us lay people, I mean, praying with each other. Personally. Like, in a casual social settings outside of the Mass or in church. Praying with each other in places and in moments that are part of everyday life.
You want to love the ones you're with? Pray with them, not just for them.
Pray with them at home. Pray in a park. Pray at work. Pray in a car. Pray in a restaurant. Pray in the backyard. Pray at the beach. Pray on the phone, on Skype, or on Google +'s Hangout.
Pray with another person. Out loud. In tandem.
I'm suggesting a movement of prayer that begins with the people you know, with whom you may have already have a friendly relationship and a similar faith background.
Don't let it be a showy, preachy, holier-than thou, or hey-look-at-us kind of prayer. Just be yourself and be not afraid.
It's time we make "prayer together" an on-going occurrence rather than a rare one with our peers, families, and colleagues who might be open to it, and who really would welcome it, if you went first.
I've been doing the Among Women Podcast for over three years now. It is a show that features faith sharing, teaching, and conversation about the beauty of the Catholic faith from a woman's perspective. When I get the opportunity to meet listeners in person, I'm always amazed when they say this about the show: I like praying with you.
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.