Lent is a time of penance and conversion

Coming closer to God means being ready to be converted anew, to change direction again, to listen attentively to his inspirations – those holy desires he places in our souls – and to put them into practice. – St Josemaria, The Forge, 32

We are at the beginning of Lent: a time of penance, purification and conversion. It is not an easy program, but then Christianity is not an easy way of life. It is not enough just to be in the Church, letting the years roll by. In our life, in the life of Christians, our first conversion — that unique moment which each of us remembers, when we clearly understood everything the Lord was asking of us — is certainly very significant. But the later conversions are even more important, and they are increasingly demanding. To facilitate the work of grace in these conversions, we need to keep our soul young; we have to call upon our Lord, know how to listen to him and, having found out what has gone wrong, know how to ask his pardon.

“If you call upon me, I will listen to you,” we read in this Sunday’s liturgy. Isn’t it wonderful how God cares for us and is always ready to listen to us — waiting for man to speak? He hears us at all times, but particularly now. Our heart is ready and we have made up our minds to purify ourselves. He hears us and will not disregard the petition of a “humble and contrite heart.”

– St Josemaria, Christ is Passing, 57

“Lord, I don’t know how to pray!”

You write: ‘To pray is to talk with God. But about what?’ About what? About Him, about yourself: joys, sorrows, successes and failures, noble ambitions, daily worries, weaknesses! And acts of thanksgiving and petitions: and Love and reparation. In a word: to get to know him and to get to know yourself: ‘to get acquainted!’ – St Josemaria, The Way

How should we pray? I would go as far as to say, without fear of being mistaken, that there are many, countless, ways of praying. But I would like all of us to pray genuinely, as God’s children, not gabbling away like hypocrites who will hear from Jesus’ lips ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord!” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 7:21). People who live by hypocrisy can perhaps achieve ‘the sound of prayer’, says St Augustine, ‘but they cannot possess its voice, because there is no life in them’ (St Augustine, Commentaries on Psalms, 139,10 (PL 37,1809)). They lack the desire to fulfill the Father’s Will. When we cry ‘Lord!’ we must do so with an effective desire to put into practice the inspirations the Holy Spirit awakens in our soul…

I have never tired of talking about prayer and with God’s grace I never will. I remember back in the thirties, as a young priest, people of all kinds used to come to me looking for ways of getting closer to Our Lord. To all of them, university students and workers, healthy and sick, rich and poor, priests and laymen, I gave the same advice: ‘Pray’. If any one replied, ‘I don’t even know how to begin’, I would advise him to put himself in God’s presence and tell Him of his desires and his anxiety, with that very same complaint: ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!’ Often, humble admissions like that were the beginning of an intimate relationship with Christ, a lasting friendship with him.

– St Josemaria, Friends of God

What is vocal prayer?

In the first place, prayer is lifting the heart to God. And yet Jesus himself taught his disciples to pray with words. With the Our Father he left us the perfect vocal prayer as his testament to show how we should pray. While praying we should not try to think pious thoughts. We should express what is in our hearts and offer it to God as complaint, petition, praise, and thanks. Often it is the great vocal prayers – the Psalms and hymns of Sacred Scripture, the Our Father, the Hail Mary that direct us to the true substance of prayer and lead to a kind of free, interior prayer.