Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace:
How’s your prayer life?

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Aug. 2, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell Every time I see Joe, an old family friend, he sooner or later asks me, “So how is your prayer life?” Joe is a husband, father, a guy who likes sports and John Wayne movies, but his life is steeped in faith and it’s the most natural thing in the world for him to talk about it.

Some of us would welcome the chance to share our experience of God, while others would be put off by this question. Our prayer life can be even more private than our relationship with our spouse. It’s not something we put into words, even with a close friend. Others of us might shy away because it makes us realize we don’t have a prayer life, or we’ve let it slide.

Many of us, I suspect, have lots of questions about prayer. Am I doing it right? How does prayer work? The more I experience prayer, the deeper the mystery.

When my oldest child was a toddler I belonged to a Mom’s Prayer group where an older mother would share her wisdom about prayer with us younger mothers. Several of her notions have stuck with me through the years.

She likened prayer to the relationship between a mother and her small child. She said, picture how you hold your child on your lap and gaze lovingly at her. Think about how you smile in delight just to see your child across the room. This is how God feels about you. A wonderful prayer is to sit quietly with the image of God holding you and smiling with delight at everything you do.

She also advised us that no matter how busy we were, we should try to spend at least a few minutes alone with God each day. Think of prayer as a conversation with a beloved friend. If this friend dropped by, would you chat while vacuuming your carpets? No. You would sit down and give her your full attention for at least a few minutes.

In Scripture, Jesus tells us how to pray: “Our Father who art in heaven….” And yet rattling off the Lord’s Prayer in and of itself does not build a relationship with God.

Recently a friend told me about the struggles of her mother, Elaine, after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Because the cancer had been discovered in the late stages, Elaine had decided not to pursue aggressive treatment. But she continued to tell the doctor, family and friends she was staying positive. Finally, her daughter asked what she meant by that. Elaine explained she didn’t expect a miracle cure, but wanted to remain positive through the experience of dying.

But after the diagnosis, prayer wasn’t easy for Elaine. She was in the hospital for testing when the Catholic chaplain came by. She told him there didn’t seem to be a prayer that fit.

“The Our Father doesn’t seem right. The Hail Mary doesn’t seem right,” she said. Elaine had often tried to pray the rosary, and that didn’t seem right, either. The chaplain told her she didn’t always have to say the words of a specific prayer, but that she could just talk to God. Her own words would be a prayer.

This came as a great relief to Elaine, and she at once felt much more peace and comfort in her prayer. My friend explained that her mother had been raised by Lutheran/Methodist parents. After she converted she has always tried so hard to do everything just right in the “Catholic” way. Her daughter believes she had learned to pray in her own words as a child, but somehow lost that in trying to be a “good Catholic.” The wisdom of the chaplain became a wonderful, freeing gift to her as she prepared for her death.

Our style of prayer will change through the times in our lives. We’ll fade in and out of communication with God. We may never understand in this life how prayer works, but we can count on the presence of God within the mystery.

© 2007, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. Her latest book, Celebrating Faith: Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families, has been published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Contact her at

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