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April 07, 2010
Bringing Fresh Air to Our Prayer
Faith Formation Update continues to offer free monthly encouragement and direction for catechetical ministry within the classroom and beyond. I’m Jeanne Hunt. In each issue I offer a brief starter and my “ Every Family” column. My co-worker and fellow religious educator Joan McKamey offers media resources and ideas in her “ Seen and Heard” column. Our co-worker Angela Glassmeyer suggests other faith formation resources for adults in her column, “Sowing Sampler.”

Easter brings a breath of fresh air to the classroom as we open the windows and our souls to the Spirit. There’s no better time than the Easter season to introduce new ways to pray. This issue will offer creative ways to stretch our souls as we attempt to “pray always.”
—Jeanne Hunt
Getting Comfortable With God
Prayer is conversation with God. Teaching children to pray is done in the same way we teach them to talk to us. We begin with a few simple words: “I love you, Jesus,” “Hello, God” and “Help me, Jesus.”

Then, we learn to let God hold us. It’s important to feel comfortable in God’s company. Just like a parent holds an infant, we need to learn how to be at ease in God’s arms. I love the idea of having a bean bag chair in the primary classroom for “holding time” (rather than “time out”). I call the chair “God’s arms.”

Gradually, children and adults alike reach a point where the comfort level rises and we begin to talk. While formal prayer is a beautiful beginning experience, all of us need to learn how to share our innermost feelings with the divine presence who loves to listen.

If you have outgrown the bean bag chair, try my favorite prayer devotion. I call it “the first cup.” Every morning, I rise and brew that first cup of coffee. I sit down in my prayer chair with my hot mug and enjoy the smell and taste of the first cup of coffee with God. I offer God the day, and then the two of us just sit together until the last drop is gone. From the bean bag to the first cup, God is waiting to sit with us.
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Recipe for Holiness
There are times in our lives when we're at a loss for words: praying through a crisis, praising God for creation, giving God our thanks. That’s when a good prayer book comes in handy. Sad as it is, many folks simply don’t know any formal prayers.

The Church offers us a wealth of beautiful prayers from those who have gone before us. For a good sampling of some of the best, take a look at The Catholic Prayer Book. For the catechist, it’s a necessary addition to your shelf of resources. I have given this prayer book to adults who are being received into the Church.

A good prayer book is like a good cookbook. It contains the basic recipes for a holy conversation when our own words fail.
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Electronic Media for Enhancing Prayer
In this day of changing technologies, we’re able to keep in touch with others like never before. E-mail has nearly made letter writing obsolete. Social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter help us connect with people about the significant, the trivial and much in between. Linked In provides electronic opportunities for professional networking. Skype facilitates global communication.
Do these changes in the way we communicate with others affect how we communicate with God in prayer? Does catching up with high-school classmates on Facebook take priority over spending time with God? These are important questions we need to ask ourselves and those to whom we minister.
A video collection that will help ground your people in prayer is Teach Us to Pray. It contains four programs—Praying the Psalms, Praying the Rosary, Praying Our Questions and Befriending God in Prayer—each containing four segments (story, witness, teaching, music video). I’ve selected a clip from the teaching segment of Praying Our Questions (RealMedia | Windows Media) to share with you. Use these programs for small groups, RCIA and other gatherings of adults for faith formation. Many segments are also suitable for high school youth. This DVD collection is a great buy at $49.95!
People are busy, and many won’t be able to attend gatherings about prayer. But they may find time to listen to an audiobook on their commute or practice prayer movements as their schedule allows at home. Three audio products come to mind for such folks: Opening to God, Beginning to Pray and The Body at Prayer.
As we become better pray-ers, we move closer to the persons God created us to be. We were created for union with God—and prayer is vital to achieving that end.
Franciscan Radio
Prayer Helps
Prayer is easy when I’m desperate: “God, why did I just say that?” or “Jesus, give me patience” or “God, help me understand.” But deep, abiding, relational prayer with God takes effort: “God, give me time and energy today to hear your call.” Here are three resources for further encouragement and guidance in prayer:
Clare Wagner in Awakening to Prayer: A Woman’s Perspective offers suggestions of words to use and rituals to experience to help us awaken to prayer—to see that separation from the Divine Mystery is an illusion and that the spiritual life is a journey that lasts a lifetime.
Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton presents the wisdom found in contemplative prayer: “Monastic prayer, especially meditation and contemplative prayer, is not so much a way to find God as a way of resting in him whom we have found, who loves us, who is near to us, who comes to us to draw us to himself.” Here is a sample from the audiobook (RealMedia | Windows Media).
God, Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer by Jim Beckman is a book for young adults which not only  introduces them to the wisdom and teaching of the Church regarding prayer, but also provides tools that will help them with their search for a deeper prayer life.
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