Prayer by Mother Teresa
All of us normally pray in our difficulties, in our sorrows, in our adversities, in our hurts and in our suffering. We want to pray properly but often we fail. It is difficult to pray if we don’t know how.
Mother Teresa was an expert on prayer. She has lived her life in earnest, fervent and continuous prayer and she shows us how to pray.
For people of other religions, they may like to replace Jesus with God, Allah, Buddha, Confucius, Krishna or Yahweh.
I have compiled her insight on prayer in a systematic manner that is easy, for me, to understand and follow.
I hope it will be useful to you.
The following passages are taken from the book, “A Life for God,” compiled by LaVonne Neff and published in 1995.
1. Love to pray, feel the need to pray often during the day, and take the trouble to pray. If you want to pray better, you must pray more. Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of himself: Ask and seek, and your heart will grow big enough to receive him and keep him as your own. (13)
2. Does your mind and your heart go to Jesus as soon as you get up in the morning? This is prayer, that you turn your mind and heart to God. In your times of difficulties, in sorrows, in sufferings, in temptations, and in all things, where did your mind and heart turn first of all? How did you pray? Did you take the trouble to turn to Jesus and pray, or did you seek consolations?
Has your faith grown? If you do not pray, your faith will leave you.
Ask the Holy Spirit to pray in you. Learn to pray, love to pray, and pray often. Feel the need to pray and to want to pray.
If you have learned how to pray, then I am not afraid for you. If you know how to pray, then you will love prayer—–and if you love to pray, then you will pray. Knowledge will lead to love and love to service. (19)
3. Let us improve our spirit of prayer and recollection. Let us free our minds from all that is not Jesus. If you find it difficult to pray, ask him again and again, “Jesus, come into my heart pray in me and with me, that I may learn from thee how to pray.” If you pray more you will pray better.Take the help of all your senses to pray. (15)
4. It is difficult to pray if you don’t know how to pray, but we must help ourselves to pray. The first means to use is silence. We cannot put ourselves directly in the presence of God if we do not practice internal and external silence. Therefore we shall take as a special point silence of mind, eyes, and tongue. (21)
5. Silence gives us a new outlook on everything. We need silence to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say but what God says to us and through us. Jesus is always waiting for us in silence. In that silence, he will listen to us, there he will speak to our soul, and there we will hear his voice. (22)
6. If we are careful of silence it will be easy to pray and to pray fervently. There is so much talk, so much repetition, so much carrying of tales in words and in writing. Our prayer life suffers so much because our hearts are not silent. (26)
7. The interior silence is very difficult, but we must make the effort to pray. In silence we will find new energy and true unity. The energy of God will be ours to do all things well, and so will the unity of our thoughts with his thoughts, the unity of our prayers with his prayers, the unity of our actions with his actions, of our life with his life. All our words will be useless unless they come from within. Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness. (22)
8. To make possible true interior silence, we shall practice:
· Silence of the eyes, by seeking always the beauty and goodness of God everywhere, closing them to the faults of others and to all that is sinful and disturbing to the soul;
· Silence of the ears, by listening always to the voice of God and to the cry of the poor and the needy, closing them to all other voices that come from the evil one or from fallen human nature: e.g., gossip, tale-bearing, and uncharitable words;
· Silence of the tongue, by praising God and speaking the life-giving Word of God that is the Truth that enlightens and inspires, brings peace, hope, and joy, and by refraining from self-defense and every word that causes darkness, turmoil, pain, and death;
· Silence of the mind, by opening it to the truth and knowledge of God in prayer and contemplation, like Mary who pondered the marvels of the Lord in her heart, and by closing it to all untruths, distractions, destructive thoughts, rash judgment, false suspicions of others, revengeful thoughts, and desires;
· Silence of the heart, by loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and one another as God loves, desiring God alone and avoiding all selfishness, hatred, envy, jealousy, and greed. (24)
9. To foster and maintain a prayerful atmosphere of exterior silence we shall:
· respect certain times and places of more strict silence;
· move about and work prayerfully, quietly, and gently;
· avoid at all costs all unnecessary speaking and notice;
· speak, when we have to, softly, gently, saying just what is necessary;
· look forward to profound silence as a holy and precious time, a withdrawal into the living silence of God. (25)
10. The contemplatives and ascetics of all ages and religions have sought God in the silence and solitude of the desert, forest, and mountain. Jesus himself spent forty days in the desert and long hours in communing with the Father in the silence of the night on the mountains. (23)
11. We too are called to withdraw at certain intervals into deeper silence and aloneness with God, together as a community as well as personally, to be alone with him, not with our books, thoughts, and memories but completely stripped of everything, to dwell lovingly in his presence: silent, empty, expectant, and motionless. (23)
12. You will never learn to pray until you keep silence:
The fruit of silence is faith.
The fruit of faith is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is love.
The fruit of love is service.
And the fruit of service is silence. (26)
13. Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart. You have to listen, and only then, from the fullness of your heart, you speak and God listens. (23)
14. God is a friend of silence. We cannot find him in noise or agitation. Nature—–trees, flowers, grass—–grows in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence.
The apostles say, “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4, RSV). The more we receive in our silent prayer, the more we will be able to give in our active life.
Silence gives us a new vision of things. We need that silence in order to get through to souls. What is essential is not what we say but what God tells us and what he tells others through us.
Jesus always waits for us in silence. In silence he listens to us; in silence he speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to his voice. (23)
15. Silence of the tongue will teach us so much: to speak to Christ, to be joyful at recreation, and to have many things to say. At recreation Christ speaks to us through others and at meditation he speaks to us directly. Silence also makes us so much more Christ-like because he had a special love for this virtue. (24)
16. Singing is an important part of our life of prayer. We shall keep our singing simple and use a minimum of musical instruments when necessary. (18)
17. To pray generously is not enough; we must pray devoutly, with fervor and piety. We must pray perseveringly and with great love. (14)
18. Be sincere in your prayers. Do you know how to pray? Do you love to pray? Sincerity is nothing but humility, and you acquire humility only by accepting humiliations. All that has been said about humility is not enough to teach you humility. All that you have read about humility is not enough to teach you humility. You learn humility only by accepting humiliations. And you will meet humiliation all through your lives.
The greatest humiliation is to know that you are nothing. This you come to know when you face God in prayer. When you come face to face with God, you cannot but know that you are nothing, that you have nothing. In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with himself.
When you become full of God, you will do all your work well, all of it wholeheartedly. We have our fourth vow of wholehearted service: it means to be full of God. And when you are full of God, you will do everything well. This you can do only if you pray, if you know how to pray, if you love prayer, and if you pray well. (19)
19. We must join our prayer with work. We try to bring this across to our sisters by inviting them to make their work a prayer. How is it possible to change one’s work into a prayer? Work cannot be substituted for prayer. Nevertheless, we can learn to make work a prayer. How can we do this? By doing our work with Jesus and for Jesus. That is the way to make our work a prayer. It is possible that I may not be able to keep my attention fully on God while I work, but God doesn’t demand that I do so. Yet I can fully desire and intend that my work be done with Jesus and for Jesus. This is beautiful and that is what God wants. He wants our will and our desire to be for him, for our family, for our children, for our brethren, and for the poor. (12)
20. Failure and loss of vocation also come from neglect of prayer. As prayer is the food of spiritual life, neglect of prayer starves the spiritual life and loss of vocation is unavoidable. Let us ask Our Lady in our own simple way to teach us how to pray, as she taught Jesus in all the years that he was with her in Nazareth. (20)
21. We want so much to pray properly and then we fail. We get discouraged and give up prayer. God allows the failure but he does not want the discouragement. He wants us to be more childlike, more humble, more grateful in prayer, and not to try to pray alone, as we all belong to the mystical body of Christ, which is praying always.
There is always prayer; there is no such thing as “I pray,” but Jesus in me and Jesus with me prays; therefore the body of Christ prays. (14)
22. Pray lovingly like children, with an earnest desire to love much and to make loved the one that is not loved. (13)
23. If we neglect prayer and if the branch is not connected with the vine, it will die. That connecting of the branch to the vine is prayer. If that connection is there then love is there, then joy is there, and we will be the sunshine of God’s love, the hope of eternal happiness, the flame of burning love. Why? Because we are one with Jesus. If you sincerely want to learn to pray: keep silence. (31)
24. If you don’t pray, your presence will have no power, your words will have no power. If you pray, you will be able to overcome all the tricks of the devil. Don’t believe all the thoughts that he puts into your mind. (19)
25. Sometimes we do not get from prayer what we are seeking because we do not focus our attention and our heart on Christ, through whom our prayers reach God. Often a deep and fervent look at Christ is the best prayer: I look at him and he looks at me. (16)
26. Perfect prayer does not consist in many words but in the fervor of the desire which raised the heart to Jesus. Jesus has chosen us to be souls of prayer. The value of our actions corresponds exactly to the value of the prayer we make, and our actions are fruitful only if they are the true expression of earnest prayer. We must fix our gaze on Jesus, and if we work together with Jesus we will do much better. We get anxious and restless because we try to work alone, without Jesus. (13)
27. See how Jesus taught his disciples to pray: Call God your Father, praise and glorify his name; do his will as the saints do it in heaven; ask for daily bread, spiritual and temporal; ask for forgiveness of your own sins and for the grace to forgive others; ask for the grace to resist temptations and for the final grace to be delivered from the evil which is in you and around you. (20)
28. Regarding purity, Jesus said, “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). If our hearts are filled with uncharitableness and jealousy, we cannot see God. I can spend hours in church, but I will not see God if my heart is not pure. That is why we need silence. In the silence and purity of the heart God speaks. (25)
29. If we want to be able to love, we must pray! Prayer will give us a clean heart, and a clean heart can see God. If we see God, immediately God’s love works in us. And we need to love not with words, but with deeds! (16)
30. Every time we need to make a decision concerning our families, we need to pray. Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9). Nothing will be denied you. Our congregation [in Calcutta] is living proof of that. We are now more than a thousand. Thousands of lives depend on us. In spite of that, we have never, never, never had to say to anybody, “Go away. We can’t do anything for you.” God is always there showing us that he never leaves our prayers unanswered. And to confirm this, since we are more important than the lilies of the field, God always helps us. (17)
31. Our prayers are mostly vocal prayers; they should be burning words coming forth from the furnace of a heart filled with love. In these prayers, speak to God with great reverence and confidence…. Do not drag or run ahead; do not shout or keep silent but devoutly, with great sweetness, with natural simplicity, without any affectation, offer your praise to God with the whole of your heart and soul. We must know the meaning of the prayers we say and feel the sweetness of each word to make these prayers of great profit; we must sometimes meditate on them and often during the day find our rest in them. (14)
32. The prayer that comes from the mind and heart and which we do not read in books is called mental prayer. We must never forget that we are bound by our state to tend toward perfection and to aim ceaselessly at it. The practice of daily mental prayer is necessary to reach our goal. Because it is the breath of life to our soul, holiness is impossible without it. St. Teresa of Avila says, “She who gives up mental prayer does not require the devil to push her into hell; she goes there of her own accord.” It is only by mental prayer and spiritual reading that we can cultivate the gift of prayer. Mental prayer is greatly fostered by simplicity—–that is, forgetfulness of self by mortifications of the body and of our senses, and by frequent aspirations which feed our prayer. “In mental prayer,” says St. John Vianney, “shut your eyes, shut your mouth, and open your heart.” In vocal prayer we speak to God, in mental prayer he speaks to us. It is then that God pours himself into us. (14)
33. Jesus Christ has told us that we ought “always to pray and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). St. Paul says, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). God calls all men and women to this disposition of heart—–to pray always. Let the love of God once take entire and absolute possession of a heart; let it become to that heart like a second nature; let that heart suffer nothing contrary to enter; let it apply itself continually to increase this love of God by seeking to please him in all things and refusing him nothing; let it accept as from his hand everything that happens to it; let it have a firm determination never to commit any fault deliberately and knowingly or, if it should fail, to be humbled and to rise up again at once, and such a heart will pray continually. (18)
The passages below are quotations of Mother Teresa are from the book “In My Own Words,” compiled by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado.
1. There are some people who, in order not to pray, use as an excuse the fact that life is so hectic that it prevents them from praying.
This cannot be.
Prayer does not demand that we interrupt our work, but that we continue working as if it were a prayer.
It is not necessary to always be meditating, nor to consciously experience the sensation that we are talking to God, no matter how nice this would be. What matters are being with Him, living in Him, in his will. To love with a pure heart, to love everybody, especially to love the poor, is a twenty-four-hour prayer. (7)
2. Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to his voice in the depths of our hearts. (9)
3. The first requirement for prayer is silence. People of prayer are people of silence. (8)
4. Silence will teach us a lot. It will teach us to speak with Christ and to speak joyfully to our brothers and sisters. (11)
5. Praying the Our Father and living it will lead us toward saintliness. The Our Father contains everything: God, ourselves, our neighbour. . .(11)
6. The apostles did not know how to pray, and they asked Jesus to teach them. He, then, taught them the Our Father.
I think that every time we say the Our Father, God looks at His hands, where we are etched. “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands. . .”(Isaiah 49:16)
What a beautiful description and also expressive of the personal love God feels for each one of us! (9)
7. Every day at communion time, I communicate two of my feelings to Jesus. One is gratefulness, because He has helped me to perservere until today.
The other is a request: teach me to pray. (11)
8. I am asked what is one to do to be sure that one is following the way of salvation. I answer: “Love God. And, above all, pray.” (11)
9. My secret is a very simple one: I pray. To pray to Christ is to love Him. (8)
The following passages are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book “The Joy in Loving,” compiled by Jaya Chalika and Edward Le Joly.
1. Everything starts from prayer. Without asking God for love, we cannot possess love and still less are we able to give it to others. Just as people today are speaking so much about the poor but they do not know or talk to the poor, we too cannot talk so much about prayer and yet not know how to pray. (7 January)
2. God has created us to love and to be loved, and this is the beginning of prayer—to know that He loves me, that I have been created for greater things. (24 Sept)
3. Love to be true has to begin with God in prayer. If we pray we will be able to love and if we love, we will be able to serve and therefore let us all promise that we will give our hearts to love them for they too have been created for greater things. (25 Sept)
4. If we really want to pray, we must first learn to listen: for in the silence of the heart God speaks. And to be able to see that silence, to be able to hear God, we need a clean heart. Let us listen to God, to what He has to say. We cannot speak unless we have listened, unless we have made our connection with God. From the fullness of the heart, the mouth will speak, the mind will think. (27 March)
5. We need to find God and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is a friend of silence. The more we engage in silence prayer, the more we can give in our active life. The essential thing is not what we say but what God says to us and what He says through us. (5 December)
6. Pray at home for only five minutes. Prayer is simply talking to God. He speaks to us, we listen. We speak to Him, He listens. A two-way process: speaking and listening. (4 May)
7. You can pray while you work. Work doesn’t stop prayer and prayer doesn’t stop work. It requires only that small raising of the mind to Him:
I love you God
I trust You
I believe in You
I need You now.
Small things like that.
They are wonderful prayers. (3 February)
8. What do we ask? ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ What is our daily bread? It is peace and love. Besides the bread for our bodies, we need that other bread for our souls to be able to live. For man does not live on bread alone. And each of us before we pass the prayer on to somebody else, let us put prayer into life. Let us spread the good news that prayer is our strength. (5 May)
9. Make every effort to walk in the presence of God. To see God in everyone you must live your morning mediation throughout the day. Smile at one another. It is not always easy. Sometimes we find it hard to smile at somebody, then we pray. (1 July)
10. If we have difficulties in our family life, if we have so much struggle in our family life, it is because life in the family is broken, and it is broken by our own hands. And the destruction is coming from within. If it came from outside, it would be easy to push it out, but when it’s coming from inside, then it is very difficult. And that’s why I think we need to pray. (23 November)
11. How do we begin that love, that peace and hope? The family that prays together stays together; and if we stay together, naturally we will love one another and want each other. I feel today we need to bring prayer back. Teach your children to pray and pray with them. (2 March)
12. My prayer for you will be that you may grow in the likeness of Christ through your kindness, through your compassion and through your healing power that God has entrusted to you. And you pray for us that we may keep doing God’s work with great love, that we don’t spoil His work. (29 May)
13. Prayer is a joy. Prayer is the sunshine of God’s love, prayer is hope of eternal happiness, prayer is the burning flame of God’s love for you and for me. Let us pray for each other, for this is the best way to love one another. (7 March)
14. Dearest Lord, may I see You today and every day in the person of Your sick, and whilst nursing them, minister unto You. Though You hide yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognise You, and say: ‘Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve You.’ (28 November)
15. I remember my mother, my father and the rest of us praying together each evening. It is God’s greatest gift to the family. It maintains family unity. So go back to family prayer and teach your children to pray and pray with them. Through prayer you will find out what God wants you to do. (4 July)
16. Let us pray especially that people shall be brothers and sisters in the world and will understand this prayer. We can each think about it separately and examine our conscience. And each of us before we pass the prayer on to somebody else, let us put this prayer into life:
Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth;
Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust;
Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace;
Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe. (10 November)
17. St Francis of Assisi Prayer
Let us pray and try to live the prayer for peace of St. Francis of Assisi and make it our own:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
Where there is error, truth.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love; for
It is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen. (24 & 25 February)
The following passages are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book “Jesus, The Word to be spoken,” compiled by Father Angelo D. Scolozzi.
1. This will need much sacrifice, but if we really mean to pray and want to pray we must be ready to do it now. These are only the first steps toward prayer but if we never make the first step with determination, we will not reach the last one: the presence of God. (Jan 7)
2. He taught us to learn from him, to be meek and humble of heart. If we are meek and humble, we will love each other as he loves us. That is why we should ask again and again that we bring prayer back in our families. The family that prays together stays together. And to stay together you will love one another as God loves you, and he loves you tenderly. (Jan 17)
3. The best means for making spiritual progress is prayer and spiritual reading. Tolle et lege (take and read), St. Augustine was told, and after reading his whole life was changed. So too was that of St. Ignatius, the wounded soldier, when he read the lives of the saints. How often we ourselves have found the light pouring into our souls during spiritual reading. St. Thomas a Kempis writes, “Take then a book into thy hands as Simeon the just man took the child Jesus into his arms; and when you have finished, close the book and give thanks for every word out of the mouth of God, because in the Lord’s field you have found a hidden treasure.” St. Bernard says, “Try not so much to catch the meaning as to relish what you read. Let us not die of starvation in the midst of abundance.” There is indeed little advantage in reading if we do not read well. Spiritual reading is one of the most precious spiritual exercises and duties, one that no one can afford to neglect. When choosing a book, never take something above you, but always take one which will give you the greatest spiritual profit. (Jan 31)
4. To become holy we need humility and prayer. Jesus taught us how to pray, and he also told us to learn from him to be meek and humble of heart. Neither of these can we do unless we know what is silence. Both humility and prayer grow from an ear, mind, and tongue that have lived in silence with God, for in the silence of the heart God speaks. (June 30)
5. Right from the beginning, take the trouble to listen to the voice of God in prayer, in adoration, and in contemplation. You may go out into the street and have nothing to say—–all right, but maybe there is a man standing there on the corner and you go to him. Maybe he resents you, but you are there, and that presence is there. You must radiate that presence that is within you, in the way you address that man with love and respect. Why? Because you believe that is Jesus. Jesus cannot receive you: for this you must know how to go to him. He comes disguised in the form of that person there. You are bound by the same call, only with us Sisters, this hunger is more on the material side, and for you members of the third order it is spiritual hunger, spiritual nakedness, spiritual homelessness. Believe me, I find it much more difficult to work with people who have bitterness, who have anxiety in their hearts, who are unwanted, unloved, uncared-for. (July 6)
6. You in the West have the spiritually poorest of the poor much more than you have physically poor people. Very often among the rich there are very, very spiritually poor people. I find it is not difficult to give a plate of rice to a hungry person, to furnish a bed to a person who has no bed, but to console or to remove that bitterness, to remove that anger, to remove that loneliness takes a long time. (July 15)
7. This is what we have to learn right from the beginning, to listen to the voice of God in our heart, and then in the silence of the heart God speaks. Then from the fullness of our hearts, our mouth will have to speak. That is the connection. In the silence of the heart, God speaks and you have to listen. Then in the fullness of your heart, because it is full of God, full of love, full of compassion, full of faith, your mouth will speak.
Listen in silence, because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God. But when you have listened to the voice of God in the stillness of your heart, then your heart is filled with God, like our Lady full of grace. And then from the fullness of the heart the mouth will speak. (July 8)
8. People are hungry for the Word of God that will give peace, that will give unity, that will give joy. But you cannot give what you don’t have. That’s why it is necessary to deepen your life of prayer. Allow Jesus to take you, pray with you and through you, and then you will be a real, true contemplative in the heart of the world. (July 28)
The passages below and quotations of Mother Teresa are from the book “A Simple Path,” compiled by Lucinda Vardey.
1. Begin our Prayer in Silence (7-10)
We all must take the time to be silent and to contemplate, especially those who live in big cities like London and New York, where everything moves so fast. This is why I decided to open our first home for contemplative sisters (whose vocation is to pray most of the day) in New York instead of the Himalayas: I felt silence and contemplation were needed more in the cities of the world.
I always begin my prayer in silence, for it is in the silence of the heart that God speaks. God is the friend of silence—we need to listen to God because it’s not what we say but what He says to us and through us that matters. Prayer feeds the soul—as blood is to the body, prayer is to the soul—and it brings you closer to God. It also gives you a clean and pure heart. A clean heart can see God, can speak to God, and can see the love of God in others. When you have a clean heart it means you are open and honest with God, you are not hiding anything from Him, and this lets Him take what He wants from you.
If you are searching for God and do not know where to begin, learn to pray and take the trouble to pray every day. You can pray anytime, anywhere. You do not have to be in a chapel or a church. You can pray at work—work doesn’t have to stop prayer and prayer doesn’t have to stop work. You can also consult a priest or minister for guidance, or try speaking directly to God. Just speak. Tell Him everything, talk to Him. He is our Father. He is Father to us all whatever religion we are. We are all created by God, we are His children. We have to put our trust in Him and love Him, believe in Him, work for Him. And if we pray, we will get all the answers we need.
Without prayer I could not work for even half an hour. I get my strength from God through prayer, which is something all the Sisters understand, including Sister Dolores, who has been with our Order for thirty-five years, and now runs Nirmal Hriday, the home for the dying and destitute in Calcutta:
“Every morning the sisters wake up knowing what they have to go through again, which is sometimes very difficult for them. Prayer gives them strength—it sustains, helps, and gives us all the joy to carry out what we need to do. We begin the day with prayer and with Mass and we end the day with an hour of Adoration before Jesus. To continuously do and to continuously give needs God’s grace—without them it would be impossible for us to live.”
Also, Sister Charmaine Jose, who is in charge of the Children’s home, Shishu Bhavan, in Calcutta says:
“I don’t know how we could face this heat and this busy work without prayer, but the work is entirely for Him so we are happy to do it.”
Sister Kateri, a Superior Sister in our home in the Bronx, New York, explains this through her own experience:
“The most important thing that a human being can do is pray, because we’ve been made for God and our hearts are restless until we rest with Him. And it’s in prayer that we come into contact with God. We are made for Heaven and we’re not going to get to Heaven if we don’t pray in some way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be formal prayer.
I used to share this with the men at the prison I visited. I’d give them the example: If you had to go on a trip, what would you need? And the men would say, ‘You’d need a car and you’d need gasoline.’ (One man said, ‘Music!’) We used to have a good time because we usually decided that the gasoline was prayer, the car was our life, the journey was to heaven, you had to have a map, you had to know where you were going, and so on. My point really is that the gasoline of our life is prayer and without that we won’t reach our destination, and we won’t reach the fulfilment of our being.”
2. When you pray, give thanks to God for all His gifts (13-15)
Start and end the day with prayer. Come to God as a child. If you find it hard to pray you can say, “Come Holy Spirit, guide me, protect me, clear out my mind so that I can pray.” Or, if you pray to Mary, you can say, “Mary, Mother of Jesus, be a mother to me now, help me to pray.”
When you pray, give thanks to God for all His gifts because everything is His and a gift from Him. Your soul is a gift of God. If you are Christians, you can say the Lord’s Prayer: if Catholic, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Rosary, the Creed—all common prayers. If you or your family have your own devotions, then pray according to them.
If you trust in the Lord and the power of prayer you will overcome any feelings of doubts and fear and loneliness that people commonly feel.
If there is something that is worrying you, then you can go to Confession (if you are a Catholic) and become perfectly clean, because Jesus forgives everything through the priest. It is a beautiful gift of God that we may go to Confession full of sin and come out perfectly pure. However, whether you go to Confession or not, or whether you are Catholic or from another religion, you should at least know how to say “Sorry” to God.
Every night before you go to bed you must make an examination of conscience (because you don’t know if you will be alive in the morning!) Whatever is troubling you, or whatever wrong you may have done, you need to repair it. For example, if you have stolen something, then try to make up to the person; do it directly. If you cannot make up like that, at least then make up with God by saying, “I’m very sorry.” This is important because just as we have acts of love, we also must have acts of contrition. You could say, “Lord, I’m sorry for having offended You and I promise You I will try not to offend You again,” something like this. It feels good to be free of burdens, to have a clean heart. Remember that God is merciful, He is the merciful Father to us all. We are His children and He will forgive and forget if we remember to do so.
Examine your heart first, though, to see if there is any lack of forgiveness of others still inside, because how can we ask God for forgiveness if we cannot forgive others? Remember, if you truly repent, if you really mean it with a clean heart, you will be absolved in God’s eyes. He will forgive you if you truly confess. So pray to be able to forgive those who have hurt you or whom you don’t like, and forgive as you have been forgiven.
You can also pray for the work of others and help them. For example, in our community there are “second self” helpers who offer their prayers for a sister who needs the strength to carry on her active work. And we also have the contemplative sisters and brothers, who pray for us all the time.
3. The family that prays together stays together. (19-21)
Prayer is needed for children and in families. Love begins at home and that is why it is important to pray together. If you pray together you will stay together and love each other as God loves each one of you. Whatever religion we are, we must pray together. Children need to learn to pray and they need to have their parents pray with them. If we don’t do this, it will be difficult to become holy, to carry on, to strengthen ourselves in faith.
There is so much suffering in families these days all over the world that it is important to pray, and it is important to forgive. People ask me what advice I have for a married couple struggling in their relationship. I always answer, “Pray and forgive”; and to young people who come from violent homes, “Pray and forgive”; and to single mother with no family support, “Pray and forgive.” You can say, “My Lord, I love You. My God, I am sorry. My God, I believe in You. My God, I trust You. Help us to love one another as You love us.”
Sister Theresina, the Regional Superior for the British Isles and Ireland, shares her experience of this:
“It is from the family that the child is supposed to get the first spiritual formation, and within the family it is meant to be nurtured and to grow. This is not happening much now. The majority of parents we come into contact with have lost their faith and therefore have lost any kind of dependence on God. They are deprived of all the gifts that God can give them to raise their children properly; they are deprived of the wisdom and the discernment to guide their children when needed. Many parents say to me, “I’m sorry, I just can’t control my children, they are out of control!”
We pray to the Holy Family (Mary, Joseph, and Jesus) for our family. We say:
Heavenly Father, You have given us a model of life in the Holy Family of Nazareth. Help us, O loving Father, to make our family another Nazareth where love, peace and joy reign.
May it be deeply contemplative, intensely Eucharistic, and vibrant with joy.
Help us to stay together in joy and sorrow through family prayer.
Teach us to see Jesus in the members of our family, especially in His distressing disguises.
May the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus make our hearts meek and humble like His and help us to carry out our family duties in a holy way.
May we love one another as God loves each one of us more and more each day, and forgive each other’s faults as You forgive our sins.
Help us, O loving Father, to take whatever You give and to give whatever You take with a big smile.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, cause of our joy, pray for us.
Saint Joseph pray for us.
Holy Guardian Angels be always with us, guide and protect us.
4. Prayers from Mother Teresa’s Prayer Book (35-38)
Try to feel the need for prayer often during the day and take the trouble to pray. Prayer makes the heart large enough until it can contain God’s gift of Himself. Ask and seek, and your heart will grow big enough to receive Him and keep Him as your own.
The following are prayers that we say every day from our prayer book. I hope they may be helpful if you do not know any prayers, or would like to know more. You could replace “Jesus” by “God” if you are not a Christian.
Let us all become a true and fruitful branch on the vine Jesus, by accepting Him in our lives as it pleases Him to come:
As the Truth—to be told
As the Life—to be lived
As the Light—to be lighted
As the Love—to be loved
As the Way—to be walked
As the Joy—to be given
As the Peace—to be spread
As the Sacrifice—to be offered,
in our families and within our neighbourhood.
O God, we firmly believe that we are in Your most Holy Presence, we believe that You see us—and that at this moment You behold even the inmost recesses of our hearts.
Penetrated with this Your divine presence, we adore You, O God, with all the powers of our soul.
We are unworthy to appear before You and more unworthy to hold communion with You.
We are heartily sorry for having offended You and we beseech of You pardon on our sins and grace to make a good and fruitful meditation.
We offer You all the thoughts of our minds, the affections of our hearts and the operations of our souls, imploring You to fill them with Your divine Spirit.
Speak to us, O Lord, let us hear Your voice and attend to Your Holy inspirations.
Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.
O Jesus! Grant that You may be the object of our thoughts and affections,
The subject of our conversations,
The end of our actions
The model of our life,
Our support in death, and
Our reward eternally in Your heavenly Kingdom.
Deliver me, O Jesus,
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire or being extolled,
From the desire of being honoured,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the desire of being popular,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being suspected.