This letter is not what you might think it is at first.

Dear Friends in Christ:

N.B. This letter is not what you might think it is at first. Before 1963, prayer and Bible reading were a regular part of most public schools. The idea, much less the reality, of prayer in public schools seems foreign today. Kids in public school often began the day with a prayer and/or a Bible reading. This was likewise true with meetings and sporting events for both students and parents. Today, this would be the basis of lawsuits, demonstrations, and media outcry. After the Supreme Court decision in Murray v. Curlett, and mandatory prayer was prohibited in public schools, there was a flippant saying that ran, ‘As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in public schools!’ This is akin to ‘there are no atheists in foxholes!’ Cute, but not necessarily true.

These remarks are not about the argument for or against prayer in public schools. That is another topic for another day. My concern is about prayer; in particular, the role of prayer in your life and in my own. How do you pray? What is the role of prayer in your life? What is the role of prayer in your marriage and in the life of your family? When do you pray? How much time do you give each day, each week, to prayer? What are the different ways in which you pray? Do you ever pray with someone else? Do you ever talk about prayer with others, even those closest to you? Do you ever ask people to pray for you? For whom do you pray? Do you ever pray to saints or the Blessed Mother? Do you find solace and peace in prayer? Do you struggle with prayer? Lots of questions.

If you have ever struggled with prayer, you are not alone. Some of the greatest saints have struggled with prayer! If you have ever been confused about how to pray, you are not alone, because even the apostles were confused too! Have you ever prayed and didn’t get the answer you wanted? Have you ever prayed with no discernable answer? Ditto with the saints and almost every Christian at one time or another.

The fact is prayer is not magic! There is no super-duper, extra-special, no-fail, guaranteed, make 91 copies of this novena, formula to prayer. Prayer does not work that way. Prayer is the communication of a person who is in a relationship with God. It is the lifting up of our hearts, minds, and souls to the one who made us and loves us. In prayer, we are not informing God of anything that He is not already aware of. Prayer is not us telling God what to do or trying to influence God to do what we want. That is silly. Point in fact, God does not need our prayers, but He does want them. He wants us to be in communion with Him so that we may enjoy the grace and the love that He offers us. God wants us to pray so that He can communicate with us!

When it comes to prayer, if we do our part, God will do His part. God is always present to us. He is always there, patiently waiting for us to open our hearts and minds to him. God is closer to us than we are to ourselves (interior intimo meo) as St. Augustine and Psalm 139 remind us. In prayer, there are no substitutions or equivalents. Prayer requires our intentional, deliberate presence and our time. Prayer takes effort. In prayer, there is a formative aspect. When we pray we are shaped internally and externally. Our thinking, attitudes, actions, values, and beliefs are shaped and molded by our prayer. In turn, our prayer or lack of prayer forms and shapes us, our marriages, and our families. Venerable Patrick Peyton, CSC, the famous ‘Rosary Priest’ extolled, “The family that prays together stays together!” How we pray as a family impacts who we are as a family and as individuals. The weaker we are in prayer, the weaker we are in life and as members of the family. The stronger we are in prayer, the stronger the family bonds.

What do you want for your family?


In Pace Christi,

Fr. Troy