This past Sunday, the topic for our high school Confirmation class was prayer. We talked a little about prayer, but most of the class was spent praying. Jeff and I wanted to introduce the class to different types of prayer in order to expand their ideas of what prayer can be. They tried a breath prayer, where they chose a short sentence to pray with each breath they took. They also tried a centering prayer, where they focused on a specific word. The prayer of examen encouraged them to reflect on their day and notice where God had been present. Finally, we had one prayer station where the students were encouraged not to talk, but to listen for God.
We often think that prayer needs to consist of us speaking long and eloquent sentences to God. That is certainly one type of prayer, but there are endless ways to pray. Luke’s Gospel tells us that after the shepherds visited the holy family at the stable, Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” I think, in that moment, she was praying. She was not doing any talking, but she was spending time with God, reflecting on the miracle that had just occurred.
This Advent season, I invite you to experiment with your prayer time. Perhaps you, like Mary, may try pondering something significant in your life. Or you might try one of the types of prayer that our high schoolers practiced on Sunday. Whatever you try, the important thing is to pray, for prayer sustains and builds our relationship with God.