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Basic Book of Catholic Prayer: How to Pray and Why
Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 1999
Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
Rev. Lawrence Lovasik (1913-1986), a prolific writer of both children and adult books. He wrote "Prayer in Catholic Life" back in 1961. "The Basic Book of Catholic Prayer: How to Pray and Why" is an abridged version of that original work. It is as relevant today as it was 45 years ago.
Why should we pray? Fr. Lovasik answers that question by stating "you cannot progress steadily toward the goal of life - to know, love, and serve God - without a willed dependence on God at each stage of that progress. Prayer is the expression of that willed dependence." God created us to love, praise, and serve Him. Prayer helps us to achieve that aim as much as we can here on earth. Many of us pray when we are in need (petition), but neglect to give thanks, offer adoration and praise, or ask for forgiveness. Fr. Lovasik details why each form of prayer is important.
We should also pray because Jesus told us that we should pray. He gave us the "Our Father" as the ideal prayer. Fr. Lovasik urges us to say that prayer with the devotion and spirit with which it was intended. Too often we go far beyond the original meaning and create our own version, something along the lines of "Give me not only bread, but pie and ice cream and a fat checking account, so that I won't have to ask You for what I need each day." Jesus has also assured us that our prayers will be answered. Every prayer is heard. Sometimes, however, God does not answer our prayers in the way we might hope. "We often pray to God for things that we believe to be good and useful, but which would be ruinous for us. For that reason, God often refuses to give us the things for which we pray. He refuses because He loves us. Sometimes He permits us to suffer so that we may draw closer to Him."
How should we pray? Fr. Lovasik discusses both vocal and mental prayer in depth. "Vocal prayer is prayer in word or action." In vocal prayer, we connect ourselves to the whole communion of saints: those in heaven, purgatory, and others here on earth as we raises our voices to God. The Liturgy, Rosary, formulaic prayers, and simply talking to God fall under this category.
Mental prayer is meditative. It is a time to quiet the soul and listen for God. "During meditation, you grow in knowledge of your Faith and you acquire principles of right living by applying yourself to prolonged reflection on some doctrine of the Church or teaching of our Savior."
Fr. Lovasik also offers suggestions on how to "pray without ceasing," and how to deal with distractions in prayer. He also encourages us to develop a "spirit of prayer" which includes having "a great esteem for prayer, a conviction of the absolute need for prayer, and absolute confidence in the power of prayer."
"The Basic Book of Catholic Prayer: How to Pray and Why" is useful for anyone who desires to know more about prayer, or who wants to deepen his or her own relationship with God through prayer.
Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur is editor of www.spiritualwoman.net. Visit her blog at spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com