How to pray

The brothers in Egypt are said to have frequent prayers, but they are very brief and, as it were,suddenlyhurled,lest protracted delays may cause to vanish or to dull the alert and aroused attention that is indispensable to one praying. By this they also show that this attention, if it shouldnt be dulled when it cant last, also shouldnt be suddenly broken off when it continues. For if we shouldnt indulge in a lot of talk in our prayer, neither should we avoid sustained prayer when fervent attention continues. To talk a lot while praying is to use superfluous words to ask for a necessary thing, while sustained praying brings the hearts continued and pious emotion to the one to whom we are praying. For quite often praying consists more of groans than of words, more of tears than of talk. God looks upon our tears, and our groans are not hidden from him who made all things by his word and does not need human words. We need words, then, to help us consider and to observe what we are asking for, not in order to inform or to sway the Lord. (Augustine Epistle 130, 20-21; PL 33, 501-502)

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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