A Catholic convert from an evangelical tradition asked me this week, “Why don’t Catholics pray spontaneously?” This is a good question. My friend proposed that it was because no one taught us to offer personal prayers out loud. I wonder, though, how it happened that our Christian brothers and sisters find it so easy to do, and we Catholics don’t. The closest thing we come to it is saying “God bless you” when someone sneezes. When asked to offer a prayer, we feel tongue-tied and self-conscious. Yet, imagine if instead of just promising someone, “I’ll pray for you,” we stopped and right then and there spoke to God about the person’s concerns. That person would be consoled and strengthened by hearing our prayer—and we wouldn’t risk forgetting to pray for him or her.
Another friend of mine, also a convert, prayed spontaneously for me on the day I met her. As we walked to the parking lot, I asked her to pray that I would meet what looked like an impossible writing deadline. Immediately she stood still on the sidewalk and prayed aloud for me. Wow! Later, during our long-distance phone calls, she always prayed aloud for the project we were working on, not caring about the cost of the call.
Jesus was comfortable praying aloud. Before raising Lazarus from the dead, he spoke to his Father in front of a crowd. When his disciples joyfully returned from ministering, Jesus thanked the Father out loud for revealing things to little ones. At the last supper he prayed a lengthy prayer straight from his heart. Jesus is our model and told us once to learn from him, so it appears that we should be practicing this kind of prayer too. Why do you think we don’t? How could we get started? Maybe by teaching our children to pray spontaneously.
Has anyone ever prayed spontaneously for you? Do you ever pray this way?