Anil Israel invites us to experience the beauty and joy of a life of prayer.

During my initial days with the Jesus Youth movement, when I was just a passive participant in our parish prayer group, I was sometimes asked, “how is your personal prayer?” At that time it hardly made sense to me as I could not co-relate with it, since daily family rosary and Sunday Holy Mass was all that consisted of my so-called prayer life.

How often do I think about a ‘life of prayer’? Do I ever ponder over what composes my personal ‘world of prayer’? Do I realize that I am a pray-er i.e. one who prays? Surely we all do pray, at least to come out of a situation that we no longer wish to remain in forever.

In prayer we bring ourselves in the presence of God. So Prayer, in a way, makes God somewhat tangibly present to us. Since it is ‘in Him we live and move and exist’ (Acts. 17:28), no wonder we are reminded to pray ‘at all times’ (Eph.6:18) ‘unceasingly’ (1Thes.5:17) ‘always’ (Lk.18:1) so as to sustain our existence in His presence. Our physicalbody survives in a biosphere made up of atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere i.e. we are dependent on air, water and food to physically survive. Likewise, our spiritual being would need a similar environment of spiritual sustenance, which given a choice I would love to refer to as a ‘prayer-o-sphere’ to survive.

Prayer can be likened to air as St. Padre Pio wisely expressed, “Prayer is the oxygen of the soul.” Sacramental life could be likened to water for they are ‘channels of grace’. ‘Grace is a participation in the life of God’ (CCC 1997) and is therefore essential for the spiritual life. The Word of God no doubt is the food – the nourishment for our souls. It feeds our faith, for ‘faith comes from hearing’ the word of God (Rom.10:17). So  we can say that our prayer-o- sphere ought to consist of at  least the first 3 pillars of the JY movement which as followers of Christ we are all called to put into daily practice. Community prayer life, as in fellowships, prayer group gatherings would further feed, nourish and enrich our souls.

How can I pray ‘at all times’ – ‘unceasingly’ – ‘always’? I can choose to have mini vacations with God by setting aside a time for spiritual breakfast – personal prayer – a conference call with God. A spiritual lunch – dwelling on the Holy Living Word of God – allowing the spiritual seed to germinate and take root in me, so as to become an integral part of my being and thereby letting all my thoughts, words and actions be guided by it. A spiritual dinner – Sacramental life – receiving Grace through Holy Communion and regular Confession, to maintain a proper dwelling place for the Holy Spirit – the Counselor, the Encourager – to abide in us and direct our lives.

We can also schedule our lives to incorporate time for prayerful devotions such as Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, as well as setting apart a time for either reading, listening or watching spiritual inputs so as to create our own environment of prayer – a spiritual castle, a dwelling  place for our souls – a prayer-o- sphere to stay spiritually alive.

Like consecrated lives who pray the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) and integrate prayer into their daily lives, we  too can choose to pray one-line ejaculatory prayers either  when we are commuting or doing our daily chores. Like Brother Lawrence, we too can practice the presence of God, by making all our activities as a prayer-offering. One-line scriptural prayers like, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have mercy on me a sinner”, “Lord, if you will you can make me clean” (Lk.5:12; Mt.8:2), “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mk.9:24), “Not my will but yours be done” (Mt.26:39; Mk.14:36; Lk.22:42; cf.Jn.6:38), “Father, for their sake I sanctify myself so that they too may be sanctified in you in truth” (Jn.17:19), play a powerful role in drawing us closer to God and being surrounded by His Holy Presence, for when we “draw near to God, He will draw near to us.” (James 4:8)

Journeying with the Movement for almost two decades has blessed me with several opportunities to introspect, realign and renew my prayer life which has been evolving gradually over the years. Praying rosaries while travelling has now become a part of New Life in Christ. Opportunities for 40 Hours Eucharistic Adoration in different parishes are a blessing to spend quite time with the Lord. Daily Online Rosary over Zoom, is furtherhelping young people to stay connected in prayer. Prayer partners play a vital role to encourage and keep one’s prayer life active.Image result for PRAYING

“Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving and righteousness.” (Tobit 12:8). A life soaked in an ocean of prayer (both  personal as well as with like- minded groups) along with  sacrifices lovingly embraced, is an excellent recipe of faithfulness in our pursuit of personal holiness. Likeengaged couples who are waiting to get married cannot but help themselves indulge in frequent communication via innumerable means, prayer also ought to be ‘courtship with Christ’ – a daily co-operation with Grace, for He is the Bridegroom and we are His beloved, the members of His Church – the mystical body of Christ. We all do have a responsible role to play in the salvation of our souls. I am the only person in existence who can set my prayer-life ablaze. Am I willing to set aside time- and-space, for an intimate  relationship with Jesus, to be filled with His Grace? For “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great.” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 24 April, 2005)

Anil Israel lives in Mannheim,Germany, with his wife Sunitha and their 5 children