As you begin this exercise, you are entering into a battle against idolatry. St. Peter warns us, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He also instructs us to resist the devil, remaining “solid in [our] faith.” Remain solid in trust that God’s omnipotence and paternal love will lead you where you need to be, regardless of how hard things get.
How to Pray
The first step to prayer is that you desire to serve God in the manner most agreeable to him. This desire will be fostered in three ways. The first is when you consider that the Almighty God deserves your worship and service. It is truly right, just, and necessary to give praise to the all-powerful creator of the universe. The second is that God became man out of love for us—for you. Not only because he is almighty but also because he is all loving you should serve him in the way that he desires. The final way to foster this desire is by contemplating your obligation to observe his law.
Ask the Lord to help you know how to pray. Have confidence that he will help you. Do not doubt the Lord. The God who loves you more than you can comprehend will not ignore your request.
Your motive for prayer must be the will of God rather than your own will. Pray because God wants you to pray. It is good if you are drawn to prayer, but it is essential that you take time to pray because God wills that you pray. In humility, surrender your will to the Lord—trust him.
Silent Contemplative Prayer
Silent contemplative prayer is an expression of prayer that’s different from vocal and mental prayer, as it goes further towards a union with Christ (see CCC 2708). “Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God” (CCC 2716). It is time spent in silence and in dialogue with our Lord. Contemplative prayer is “far from being passive.” Rather, it is “the loving commitment of a child. It participates in the ‘Yes’ of the Son become a servant” (CCC 2716). Vocal prayer is “an initial form of contemplative prayer” (CCC 2704), but each of these—both contemplative and vocal prayer—serves a unique purpose.
Vocal prayer is too often practiced as merely a monologue; a petition to our Lord that awaits no response. Meditative prayer, “a form of prayerful reflection” (CCC 2708), can even become a substitute for contemplative prayer, as if conversing with God is only for the most holy and not for the normal “everyday” Christian man. As you start each holy hour with vocal prayer and flow through to meditative prayer, do not fail to give enough time for God to lead you into a silent dialogue with him. This time of silent prayer gives God the opportunity to speak, and it gives you the chance to listen. It provides a context for a healthy conversation befitting a father and son. It is within this silent prayer that “we let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed” (CCC 2711).
Do you desire freedom? Do you desire to have your life transformed? Then be committed to your daily time of honest and unguarded silent prayer, during which you can love and be loved by the Lord. He alone can bring you to the freedom you were made for.
Time in prayer will be critical. Do not let yourself be persuaded into thinking that you have no time. “One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter” (CCC 2710). You can do it. God will provide the grace for you if you show up to prayer each day, willing to receive it.
For now, take a breath and ponder these challenging words from Christ:
Where to Pray
Your prayer time is best done before the blessed sacrament, either exposed or reposed in a tabernacle. If this is not possible, find an intentional place to pray. A place free of distractions. Light a candle before you if possible. Consider bringing a crucifix into the space with you as well.
The Five Types of Pray
There are five "kinds" of prayer. They are adoration (or blessing), petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise.
"The prayer of blessing is man's response to God's gifts: because God blesses, the human heart can in return bless the One who is the source of every blessing" (CCC, 2626). In this prayer, we bless God for his great might and power.
"The first movement of petition is confession" (CCC, 2631). Petition is ordered toward the Kingdom of heaven. "We pray for the Kingdom, then for what is necessary to welcome it and cooperate with its coming (CCC, 2632). In petitionary prayer, we acknowledge our own weakness and we pray that we might have the strength to amend our lives so that we might attain eternal life.
"Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners" (CCC, 2634). In intercessory prayer, we ask for grace on behalf of another.
Thanksgiving is that prayer whereby we acknowledge the good things God has given us. For us, every moment can be offered as thanksgiving. When all is well, we should thank the Lord for providing for us with good things. Likewise, when we try to attain virtue, but we are constantly temped to sin, we should thank the Lord for the opportunity to overcome vice.
Praise is that prayer where we acknowledge that God is God. This prayer is not rooted in ourselves, but it lauds God simply because HE IS (see CCC, 2639). Praise take all of the other forms of prayer and presents them to the Father.
How to Make a Holy Hour
During this spiritual exercise, you are called to commit yourself to a holy hour once a week. If you can’t do an entire holy hour on a given day, do as much as you can. Preservation of the twenty minutes of silent contemplative prayer is the exercise minimum on days you cannot make a full holy hour. When you are making the full holy hour, at least twenty minutes of silent contemplative prayer in open conversational time with God should be a part of the hour.
Ideally, holy hours should be spent in Eucharistic adoration with our Eucharistic Lord exposed in a monstrance or reposed in a tabernacle.
If neither option is available, then “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
For more on the structure of a daily holy hour, see the section of the Field Guide entitled, “How to Pray a Holy Hour."
Fidelity to Prayer
A major temptation many Exodus Men face is to cut back on daily prayer or cut it out altogether. Men are often concerned about how much time they spend away from their families when they take on daily prayer. Yet, take a moment to self-reflect:
• How much time have you stolen from your family in the last month by playing video games, staying later at work, or staring at your television screen?
• What are you actually saying when you consider time with God to be less important than time with your family?
Yes, time with one’s family is very important and valuable. Exodus is meant to assist you in gaining freedom from slavery so that you stop stealing time from your family. Time spent with God, however, is not “stolen” time. Prayer is a way to acknowledge the one who gives you all the time you have. It is a matter of justice that we should give some of our time exclusively back to him.
Prayer in the Living Fraternity
Exodus Men form a living fraternity. You can count on the prayers of your brothers. They will be praying for you, and you should be praying daily for them, by name. Moreover, there are thousands of Exodus Men around the world praying for you and for all Exodus Men—those currently making an Exodus and those living the formation offered in Day 91. These are your brothers. They have endured the same grueling, purifying ninety days you are about to take up. They are continuing to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) through their ongoing life of prayer, asceticism, and fraternity. So be encouraged. You and your fraternity are far from alone on this journey.
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”