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Praying in Community

by Linda Hilton | July 9, 2017

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Something that’s changed significantly for me over the past four years is my prayer life. Before accompanying my husband through his formation, I prayed daily, sometimes at length. It was a prayer habit of my own making, a bit free-form. Throughout the day, I found myself thanking God, asking Him for help, asking Him for forgiveness, or praying for someone I had just encountered. At night, I would pray for others and for a peaceful night’s sleep. This was all good, and I was pretty satisfied that God and I were on decent terms. I knew there could be more, but I wasn’t sure where to start, wasn’t sure I had the time to do more of the same kind of praying.

As we began attending Formation Weekends, I was introduced to the Liturgy of the Hours, which I found beautiful, poetic, and moving. It was a great addition to my personal prayer life, and one that gave me a new, more structured way to build on my relationship with God.

However, what really changed for me was learning more about the sacrament of the Eucharist and about St. Paul’s concept of the Body of Christ. One of our instructors spoke at length about what goes on in the Mass at the time of communion, how specially united we are, and how important it is to be aware of developing a “me and Jesus” attitude that does not recognize the mystical but very real connection all believer’s experience.

Reflecting on this over time, I realized that my own prayer life lacked recognition of this communal component, even at Mass. It explained why, at the deacon candidate formation weekends when we prayed the liturgy of the hours in community, there was a unique elevation of spirit that I couldn’t pin down. More than at other private prayer times, there was a connection among us, a small band of believers, that transcended any of us individually. I’ve also started noticing it at Mass (and every Mass is a bit different) and welcoming that precious sense of connection and shared grace.

These days, I have three “flavors” of prayer life, and I’ve realized the importance of keeping them in balance. There’s that ongoing conversation with God, taking time to recognize his presence in the everyday world and taking stock at the end of each day to see where He was speaking to me and how, or if, I responded. Added to that, there’s the structure of individual prayers like the Examen, the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Rosary. Finally, there’s the nourishing opportunity of communal prayer, when I remember to lift up my head, look around, and truly become part of the Body of Christ.

This blog post was contributed by Linda Hilton, Saint Katharine Drexel Parish, Alton, NH.

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