Prayer: The First Means of Repentance and Key to a good Lent
When St. John Chrysostom (d. 407 AD) preached in Antioch (Syria) about repentance, he recommended several practices which have their origin in the Old Testament, and have been used by Christians for the last 2,000 years. These practices are important for our entire Christian life, but are particularly important for making a good and holy season of Lent.
Prayer: Prayer is the “raising of our minds and hearts to God”, or the “asking of good things from God.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that there are five types of prayer:
- Petition — asking for ourselves, especially for the forgiveness of our sins
- Intercession — asking for others
- Thanksgiving — for favors, help received from God
- Adoration — recognition of all the great things that God has done for us
- Praise — recognition of God for Who He Is.
All five types of prayer are important, and should be part of our lives. There are also several levels of prayer:
- Vocal — talking to God with words, which includes doing so silently
- Mental / Meditation — thinking about God, and turning our hearts to Him in love, joy, praise, etc.
- Contemplation — when God takes the lead in our prayer (“the Spirit prays within us, with groanings that cannot be expressed in speech”)
Lent is a wonderful time to enter more deeply into prayer; even a few extra minutes each day is of value. It is good to try to bring in a type of prayer that we don’t normally use. One very good way to pray is to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration — we can use meditation, adoration and praise, as well as petition and intercession. Another way to pray this Lent is to practice “Lectio Divina” (Divine Reading), which is a slow, meditative reading of Sacred Scripture — not rushing through, but reading slowly, savoring and “chewing on” the sacred words, allowing them to sink deeply into our hearts and souls.
May this season of Lent be a time for us to deepen our life of prayer, and to fall more deeply in love with Our Lord Jesus Christ!