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The Four Pillars of Stewardship: Prayer

Catechists urged to focus on prayer

By CHARLENE SCOTT MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register

Editor’s Note: The following is Part I of a two-part series. Part I focuses on “Prayer”, one of the four pillars of stewardship. Part II will address the “Service” pillar, including how catechists can use strong proclamation to encourage children to pray. Stein noted that she utilized several sources in her talk that readers may wish to access. They will be included online, and in the next issue of the SKR.

The Coordinator of Catechist Formation in the Diocese of Dodge City, Coleen Stein, urges catechists to pray because “Prayer is the way we connect and stay connected to God.”
Stein joined Bishop Emeritus Ronald M. Gilmore as a speaker on the Interactive Television Network Sept. 4 and 7.  
“We begin by looking at what is prayer, why is prayer important, how do we pray, and how can we help others, especially our students, pray,” she said.  
“We think of prayer as something we do in order to get something else.  We pray for things:  rain, peace, health, success.  And when we get what we ask for, we believe our prayer is responsible for it.  If we don’t get it, we wonder whether we prayed wrong, or whether God knew better, or whether someone else deserved to win more than we did.” Young Catholics were taught to work at prayer, Stein said.
“Our failure to work hard at praying was what made prayer a failure.”
Young Catholics were taught that God strongly disliked those who fought with siblings, missed prayer times, told lies, or allowed impure thoughts to linger.  
“We were taught about a God who would get us if we didn’t watch out.  This imagined God is concerned about sex more than anything else, and enforcing rules about sexuality.  This is a God who is male, lives in heaven, and is addressed through one-way prayer.
“But the God just described is not the God of Jesus!” she emphasized.
“The God of Jesus is near, always at our side, the source of love and truth.  God is sure, steady, relentless in loving us.  There is no revenge in the God of Jesus, no retaliation, no desire for repayment.
“We are in communion with God, intimate, deep communion.  And this communion, this intense moment of God’s presence, this experience of God is prayer.  Prayer is all about our relationship with a God who loves us.  We enter into this relationship at the urging of God.  God wants an ongoing, vibrant, loving relationship with all of us.”
Just to be is a blessing; to live is holy, Stein noted.
“Our lives are holy.  God loves us just as we are.  God calls all of us into relationship and offers us the possibility of intimacy.  As in human relationships, intimacy grows over time.  It does not usually happen immediately, and we progress in our relationship with God as we do with another person.
“After we are introduced to God, the next step is to become more acquainted with God.  This is when we learn more who God is and how we feel in God’s presence.  As trust grows we may long to explore the possibility of friendship.  When we agree to a friendship with God, God becomes a part of our everyday lives.  We spend more time being aware of God’s presence in our lives.
“God wants us to bring all of who we are into this relationship.  God wants our doubts, fears, and anger, as well as our laughter, love and joy, our greed, envy, and laziness, as well as our generosity, energy, and hope.  When we bring all of who we are into our relationship with God, we open ourselves to be loved unconditionally.”
Think of your oldest and dearest friend, Stein said.
“How did you become such great friends?  The relationship might have happened because you had something or someone in common, because you were sharing a joyous occasion, or maybe you were support for each other during a difficult time.  Regardless of how you met, both parties felt the need to keep it going and so both invested time.  Both invested themselves and shared deeply where they have been and where they are going.  Because you were honest and open with your friend, your friend loved you and still loves you, unconditionally.  And so it is with our relationship with God.”
Our longing to be with God is a reflection of God’s longing to be with us, Stein said.  
“God is madly in love with us.  There is no reason for it.  God just loves us.  That’s why there is a world.  That’s why each of us is here.
“In my own life, I have struggled with knowing how to pray or at least I thought I was struggling.  I was baptized Catholic as an infant, and as a child I was taught the formalized prayers such as The Our Father, The Hail Mary, The Angel of God, The Glory Be…  
“I attended Catholic Grade School until fourth grade when it closed.  It was at this point that I started PSR classes, at that time CCD.  I don’t remember at anytime having anyone teach me about prayer other than formalized prayers.  While it was beautiful that I knew these prayers and said them, I am not sure they were truly mine from the heart.
“As an adult, I have discovered much through the desire to know more about prayer.  One important thing I learned is that if you want to pray, you are already praying.  The desire to pray is the evidence that God is already at work, at prayer, in you.  Most of us pray far more than we think we do.  Anytime we reflect on our families, our children, our students, our job, something we are grateful for, that is beautiful prayer.”
Anything we do that honors, strengthens, or deepens our relationship to God can become a form of prayer, Stein said.  One woman recovering from knee surgery said that swimming was her deepest form of prayer.  
“I imagine I am breathing in God’s love and breathing out my worries,” the woman said.  “And then, because my injured body is so cumbersome on land, I am grateful for how the water holds me up and gives me rest even as I swim.  This reminds me how God’s love does that for me every moment of every day.”  
When a person broadens their concept of prayer, it is easier to be attentive to God during much of the day’s activities, Stein asserted.  
“Making all we do a form of prayer is what the apostle Paul meant when he told his disciples to pray without ceasing.
“Our hearts are like putty – if you knead the putty it stays soft; if you don’t it becomes hard and impossible to move.  Prayer keeps our hearts soft, our minds aware and our vision open to the presence of others and of God.”

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