Pope Francis calls us to prayer, so here's an action plan

Pope Francis emphasized the importance of prayer in the life of a Christian in his homily at daily Mass on Tuesday. In the Gospel story of Mary and Martha, the pope said that Christ is telling us "the first task in life is this: prayer." In fact, Pope Francis went on to say that "when we don't pray, what we're doing is closing the door to the Lord."

Pope Francis particularly speaks about allowing the Lord to work miracles in times of trouble. By turning to God in prayer, "he will come … he builds things. He knows how to arrange things, to reorganize things. This is what praying is: opening the door to the Lord, so that he can do something. But if we close the door, God can do nothing!"

We are, of course, very familiar with turning to God when life takes a wrong turn. But what if we opened that door in other areas and times in our lives? If God can "arrange" and "reorganize" during the hard times, think of what he can do in our everyday lives.

Pope Francis lists three aspects of prayer: "gazing on the Lord, hearing the Lord, asking the Lord." Sometimes the asking seems to take precedence — at least in my life — but note the order that the pope lists these types of prayer. The first two, gazing and listening, do not include speaking at all, but are rather a prayer of the heart, an intimate "contemplation of Jesus." Pope Francis notes that the Lord desires all of us to follow Mary's example of "gazing upon the Lord as if she were an awestruck child." Only after that does he list asking.

Obviously deeper prayer, that "contemplation of Jesus," requires discipline: daily prayer, daily time with God, dedicating ourselves to building that relationship. This means returning in prayer persistently, even when we do not "feel" anything. It means basing an intimate relationship with the Lord on something much deeper: trust, love of God for who he is, complete and utter gift of self, sacrifice and surrender to his will.

How do we do that? I recommend reading this week's In Focus article from OSV Newsweekly, "Prayer action plan." Mike Aquilina looks at the meaning of prayer as relationship, communication (both talking and listening), different types and postures of prayer, models of prayer and even steps to build a prayer plan.

Jennifer Rey is the web editor of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.