What is Prayer?
Prayer is about God and our relationship with God.
Prayer can be defined as faith’s answer to God who invites us to an intimate
relationship. When we pray it is God’s initiative of love which draws us and our
initial step towards prayer is always a response to God’s invitation.
There are three dimensions to Prayer:
Prayer can be seen as speech, for example when we read the scriptures, or when we
make known to God what is in our hearts and express these desires.
Prayer is also about relationship: we are made in the image of God, when we speak to
God we become a person in relationship with God.
Finally prayer is about conversation, addressing God through intercession and
requesting that these are heard and responded to.
If Prayer is about God and our relationship to God then how we understand God’s
relationship to us is very important. For example, if I use distant and remote
language to speak of God, then I will imagine God is distant and remote. Thus, my
image of God, the kind of God I believe in, is crucial to the way my journey of prayer
For Francis and Clare of Assisi their relationship with God was based on faith that
God became human in Jesus Christ. For them their relationship with God was an
intimate one; they wanted to follow Jesus as closely as they could.
Prayer in the Franciscan tradition is not about attaining something new, it is
discovering what is already in us – We discover what we already have - the goodness
that we are as individual human beings created by a loving God.
Franciscan prayer is about becoming a new creation in Christ. This kind of prayer is
less about what we asking for and more about the fact that with prayer, we become
different people. By praying as a Franciscan we make a radical difference in our lives and in the lives of others. When we pray, as Franciscans we make Christ alive
in our lives and bring Christ to others, in love.
We know from their writings that Francis and Clare spent a lot of time in prayer, and
encouraged their followers to pray constantly. Saint Francis in his Testament writes:
And the Lord gave me such faith in churches that I would
simply pray and speak in this way: "We adore You, Lord Jesus
Christ, in all Your churches throughout the world, and we
bless You, for through Your holy cross You have redeemed the
Twice in his rule Francis encourages his brother to pray:
In Chapter five he warns us that work should ‘not extinguish the spirit of prayer and
devotion to which all other things of our earthly existence must contribute.’ And
again in Chapter ten Francis says: “let the brothers pursue what they must desire
above all things: to have the Spirit of the Lord and his Holy manner of working and
to pray to Him always with a pure heart.”
Saint Clare’s expression of prayer is most profound in her letters to St Agnes of
Prague. In these letters Clare outlines four basic themes to characterise a path of
Gaze, consider, contemplate, imitate.
O most noble Queen, gaze upon [Him], consider [Him], contemplate [Him], as you
desire to imitate [Him]. (Second Letter)
Gaze: Clare, in her writings, suggests a visual reading – Gaze on the image of
the Crucified Christ, the leads to mediation or consideration of Christ,
then to contemplation and an imitation of Christ.
Contemplate: Clare sought unity with God through contemplation….
Consider: Study – Sit with the Christ of the Cross. – ‘Consider the holy humility,
the blessed poverty’; (fourth Letter)
Imitate: Reflect the love of Christ to the world. Transformation: become the one
Clare’s path of prayer is a deep mutual relationship with God. It begins with the gaze
of the Crucified then moves inward toward self-reflection, identity and
transformation, and finally outward so that we may radiate God’s face to the world.
Prayers for the Journey
Francis and Clare have left us a wonderful legacy of prayer and praise of our
wonderful God… For your own prayer you may want to reflect on these prayers
composed by Francis and Clare in their life time … for us in our life time!
Song, music, and poetry were so deeply a part of the nature of Saint Francis that in times
of sorrow and sickness as well as of joy and good health he spontaneously gave voice in song to his feelings, his inspirations, and his prayers. The clearest expression of this is the
Canticle of Brother Sun written just before his death...
The Canticle of Brother Sun
Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendour!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.
The Discernment Prayer is prayer of petition - asking God to make the path - the
Most high, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness
of my heart and give me Lord,
a correct faith, a certain hope,
a perfect charity, sense and knowledge,
so that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.
Unlike Saint Francis, Clare did not ‘write’ prayers as such, but in her letters to Saint Agnes of Prague she offers some reflections for prayer…
Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!
Place your heart in the figure of divine substance!
And transform your entire being into the image of the Godhead
Itself through contemplation.
is she to whom it is given to share this sacred banquet,
to cling with all her heart to Him.
Whose beauty all the heavenly hosts admire unceasingly,
Whose love inflames our love,
Whose contemplation is our refreshment
Who graciousness is our joy.
Whose gentleness fills us to overflowing
Whose remembrance brings a gentle light,
Whose fragrance will revive the dead,
Whose glorious vision will be the happiness
Of all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem.
The Sisters pray this prayer each day to St Clare .. we offer it now for you...
We praise you Saint Clare
because you followed Christ
by living your life in poverty and prayer,
so that we too
may learn to trust in the providence of the Father
who never fails us,
and to accept the divine will
in all serenity.
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