Introduction to Prayer

To pray means to open your hands before God.

It means relaxing the tension, which squeezes your hands together into a fist, and accepting your existence not so much as a possession to be defended, but as a gift to receive.

Prayer is a way of life, which allows you to find stillness in the midst of the world where you open your hands to God, and find hope for yourself, your fellowman and the whole community in which you live.

Prayer is life with open hands where we are not ashamed of our weakness but realise that it is more perfect for a man to be led by the Other than to seek to hold everything in his own hands.

Only within this kind of life does a spoken prayer make sense. A prayer in Church, at table, or in College is only a witness to what we want to make our entire lives.

There are as many ways to pray, as there are moments in life. Sometimes you seek out a quiet spot and you want to be alone, sometimes you look for a friend and you want to be together. Sometimes you'd like a book or some music. Sometimes you want to sing with hundreds, sometimes only a whisper with a few. Sometimes you want to say it with words, sometimes with a deep silence.

In all those moments, you gradually make your life more a prayer and you open your hands to be led by God even to where you would rather not go.

Praying is a bit like walking. It is natural to us. Yet we still have to learn; and sometimes we have to re-learn. Someone who has not got the ability to walk needs walking aids to start with. Eventually he will do without them and walk without thinking about it.

Prayer needs to be taught. There are aids, which we can use. For some they will be unnecessary; they may even appear as inappropriate. But there is one simple rule - we must do whatever we find helpful, and not use aids, which hinder us or hold us back.

Prayer is turning our attention to God. It is raising our minds and hearts to God. It is putting ourselves in his presence. So our starting point for prayer is the place where we find God. That can be anywhere. The same simple rule applies. If we find God in a particular place, or situation, then that is where we start. We return to where we found Him last, and we leave that place only when we are led forward.

We can find god in the whole universe, in all aspects of his creation: we can find God in other people, in our love for them; we can find God in the sacraments of the Church, in His presence in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Mass; we can find God in our own hearts, in stillness and peace. We must go to wherever we find him. 

Archbishop Vincent Nichols