St. John of the Cross says: “The person who flees prayer is fleeing everything that is good.” Without air to our lungs it is just a matter of minutes that we will suffocate and die; what air is to the lungs, prayer is to the soul. St. Paul exhorts us: “Pray without ceasing” (I Thes. 5:17). To the Ephesians ha says “Pray at all times.” (Eph. 6:18). In the Garden of Olives Jesus earnestly warned the Apostles to pray: “Watch and pray”. (Mt. 26:41).Because they failed to pray the Apostles failed Jesus when He most desperately needed their company and their friendship. There is an obvious connection to lack of prayer and succumbing to sin. The more and better we pray, the more graces we receive from God and the more power we have in our will to resist the imperious demands of the flesh, the insistent attacks of the devil and the astute and ever-present seductions of the world that surrounds us with its glamour and allurements.
The following is an acronym to help us to pray with greater fervor and determination. We will title this the Five W’s of Prayer. Let’s start!
1. When? When can we pray? The response is simple and to the point: any time you desire you can lift up your mind and heart to your loving Father. He is patiently waiting for you at all times. If we call someone on the phone often we suffer frustrations because the line is busy. God’s line to heaven is never busy. As soon as we dial Heaven, God immediately picks up the receiver and is lovingly waiting for us to talk to Him. How great God is!
2. Where? Not only can we pray to God at any time, but we can also pray to Him in any place in the created universe. One of the attributes of God is His omnipresence—that means, that God is absolutely everywhere. St. Paul, quoting a Greek poet, reminds us of this truth: “In Him we live and move and have our being.” We can easily obliterate God from our consciousness, but God never forgets us even for a split second and He always loves us unconditionally.
3. Why? Why should we pray? For many reasons! However, a most powerful reason might be this: for the salvation of our immortal soul. Listen to what two great saints teach us on the importance of prayer for the salvation of our immortal souls. Let us start with St. Augustine, who struggled for many years to break the slavery of lust. The Doctor of grace teaches us in a simple and poetic fashion: “He who prays well lives well; he who lives well dies well; he who dies well, all is well.” Bravo Augustine! Now let us turn to one of the greatest teachers on almost all spiritual topics you can imagine, St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori. He is quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the section on prayer with these cogent and convincing words: “He who prays well will be saved; he who does not pray will be damned.”Boom! Powerful assertion, what do you think?
4. Who? In prayer then “Who” can I talk to? The response is both simple and complex! You can obviously talk to God. You can talk to any one of the Persons in the Trinity—the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. However, in heaven where God lives is family. Therefore, you can pray to Mary, the Mother of God, the angels and the saints. In a certain sense, there indeed is true liberty in prayer. You can talk to any of the above-mentioned, at any time and in any place and whatever words you might feel inspired to express yourself! Still more you can talk to more than one of them at the same time! No strait-jacket exists with respect to prayer; rather, the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.
5. What? The next question that surely crosses the mind of so many people with respect to prayer is what do I say? Once again, total liberty! An extremely helpful acronym that can help you with the expression of various sentiments or feelings in prayer is the word A.C.T.S.
- A stands for adoration. Why not unite your heart with the angels to praise, adore and glorify God.
- C stands for Contrition. If we hurt somebody we apologize with a sincere: “I am sorry!” When we sin we hurt God and should practice contrition and tell Him we are sorry!
- T stands for thanksgiving. Indeed all that we have in this world is a pure gift from God and we should render Him constant thanks. If you like we should cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
- S stands for supplication. This word simply means that we should ask God for what we need. Jesus Himself encourages us with these words: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. Whoever asks receives; whoever seeks finds; and whoever knocks the door will be opened for him. (Mt. 7:7-8)
To encourage us to pray let us carefully meditate the words that St. Peter of Alcantara wrote taking from St. Lawrence Justinian on the powerful effects of prayer:
In prayer the soul is purified from sin, charity is nurtured, faith takes root, hope is strengthened, the spirit gladdened. In prayer the soul melts into tenderness, the heart is purified, the truth reveals itself, temptation is overcome, sadness is put to flight. In prayer, the senses are renewed, lukewarmness vanishes, failing virtue is reinvigorated, the rust of vices is scoured away; and in this exchange, there come forth living sparks, blazing desires of heaven, in which the flame of divine love burns.
Remember then the Five Ws of prayer to motivate you to soar high in the divine atmosphere of prayer: 1) When, 2) Where, 3) Why, 4) Who, and 5) What. May Our Lady model of prayer, who pondered the Word of God in her Immaculate Heart pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.