The Power of Lenten Prayer

The “penance” we do in Lent means turning away from sin and toward God. To enable us to cooperate well with God’s grace in doing penance, the Church recommends three practices: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. We deal here with prayer.

To be able to turn toward God and away from our sins, we need two things: knowledge and desire. Often, we persist in sinful behavior either because we do not appreciate how harmful the behavior is to us or because we do not know how to behave better. Inattentive listeners, for example, might not realize that this way of listening to others is often disrespectful and limits their own ability to develop relationships, or they might not know how to practice attentive listening and so might despair of change.

In either case, prayer is a good beginning. We can pray to know our sins better and for God to teach us his ways. Since God likes to work through his creatures, we do well to open ourselves to the correction of someone trustworthy and to guidance for growing in areas where we are unsure. Through meditation, we familiarize ourselves with God’s revelation and attempt to understand what it means for us today. This makes us more able to judge our actions by God’s providential love. By contemplation we communicate simply with God as with a friend, resting in his presence. Speaking to God from the heart in this way conforms us to him and so renders us able to see things as he does.

Sometimes we feel that we know our sins and how we should act differently, but we still find it difficult to make the change wholeheartedly. When we are reluctant in this way, it is often because we are afraid to lose something to which we have grown attached . This might be because we don’t deeply believe the action to be bad, or because we are not confident that God has our true happiness in mind, or because we settle for an imperfect relationship with God, not much caring that this activity is offensive to him. Respectively, these are defects in faith, hope, and charity. Since these are the three ways in which we participate in divine life on earth, we do well to turn to God in prayer for strength.

To begin, we can ask God for a more profound desire for holiness. We can also meditate on God’s word to see how human sin has yielded misery throughout history and how unfailingly God has worked for the good of his people; we can think how this has been true in our lives. Finally, through spending time with God in contemplation, we taste the goodness of God and so cling more tenaciously to him as our ultimate and unequaled love.

Br. John Peter Anderson, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE