Called to flourish – learning to pray
How do we learn to pray? The answer is very simple and very challenging at the same time. What are we doing when we pray? We are talking to God.
When the Catechism speaks about the gift of prayer, it says that “prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 2000, §2259). How do we learn to do this? For most of us, it comes from the relationship we have with our parents as small children. Learning to pray is one of the greatest gifts that Christian parents can give their children.
Although the concepts may not be transmitted as formally as lined out here, children can grow a discerning heart, a habit of prayer, and an awareness of the existence of a calling in life by following the example of their parents.
A discerning heart
A discerning heart is helpful for a young man since it will help him make decisions freely and firmly. He will need to understand his own vocation in life through discernment. Learning a habit of prayer will be most helpful for developing discernment at his own maturity level. Since “vocation is dialogical in nature – discernment is dialogical” (Institute for the Psychological Sciences [IPS], 2015, [min. 2:35]). It is a dialogue with the Creator and this is something that seems natural to children. They can learn to love to pray. They like being amazed at the greatness of the universe and feel special that God could be interested in what they have to say.
When parents can take advantage of the wonder in their children’s eyes to introduce them to the marvels of God and his creation, they set them up for success in spiritual life. Just as a child can be amazed by a bird or a new smell, he can be amazed by the goodness of God and his desire to enter into relationship with him, personally.
Habit of Prayer
A habit of prayer can help him discover his call to goodness since “the human vocation to goodness and flourishing is received through human experiences, relationships, and practices” (Titus, 2015, p. 5). It gives him a framework to interpret his experiences and relationships. He learns to receive grace, that is “God’s presence, will, and word, which strengthens, frees and sanctifies us in the image of his Son through the Holy Spirit” (Titus et al., 2019, p. 2153). Grace is always received but is processed in the consciousness through prayer. Speaking with God allows himstraightforward to understand how God is present in his life.
Guiding their children each day in prayer helps to build up a habit of prayer. Christian parents can model prayer, and the children love to mimic them. What begins as mimicry develops into something real and genuine. God hears the prayers of small children. Helping them to know this sets them up for success in the life of faith.
Awareness of the existence of a calling in life
God has “willed to make men holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness” (Vatican Council II, 1964, §9). This call to serve in holiness comes with birth in a call to human flourishing and is made more explicitly theological through the Christian sacrament of Baptism. “A call or vocation attracts us because of the good or value that it embodies or promises” (Titus et al., 2019, p. 2153). The greatest good is salvation and will become the great project of life for the young person.
Showing them their own unconditional love prepares children to know the depths of the infinite love of God. This love is expressed in a calling to a specific vocation. Talking to their children about vocation in the context of the various states of life is good preparation for Christian marriages and vocations to consecrated and priestly life. Their marriage has been fruitful in bringing new Christians to the Church. Now, their testimony can be fruitful in preparing new vocations to continue working to establish the Kingdom of God.
Catechism of the Catholic Church. (2000). (2nd ed.). Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Institute for the Psychological Sciences (Producer). (2015). Discerning vocational states [Video file]. Washington, DC: Author. [7:57 min.]
Titus, C. (2015). Universal call to goodness and holiness[PDF]. Washington, DC: Institute for the Psychological Sciences.
Titus, C. S., Nordling, W. J., & Vitz, P. C. (2019). Fulfilled through vocations. In P. C. Vitz, W. J. Nordling, and C. S. Titus (Eds.) A Catholic Christian meta-model of the person: Integration with psychology & mental health practice (pp. 210–248). Sterling, VA: Divine Mercy University.
Vatican Council II. (1964). Lumen gentium [Dogmatic constitution on the Church, Light of the nations]. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html
Video in English: https://youtu.be/x3nf8_qv5YI
Video in Spanish: https://youtu.be/U9Zwh1Fa8x8