For some, praying can be a difficult task. There may be a fear of doing it wrong or a fear of getting distracted. But it need not be a scary event.

“Good prayer at its very base is a relationship with God and communication in that relationship with God,” said Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith. He compares the relationship to that of a married couple or a pair of good friends who can talk freely with each other. The ability to talk so freely comes from that relationship, added the bishop.

Prayer can take many forms — seeking intercessions, reflecting, asking advice, praising, pouring out your heart, just to name a handful.

Conversations with the Lord include all of the types of things that come up in a conversation with a spouse or good friend.

“Except this is now much deeper— we’re praying to God,” said the bishop.

Sister Juana Maria, along with her fellow Discalced Carmelites at Carmel Maria Regina in Eugene, prays all the time.

“That’s our life — a life of prayer,” she said.

There are many ways in which we can pray to God. We may come to him as a friend, a brother, a father, a redeemer, a savior and, for those in consecrated life, a spouse.

“The best prayer that we can offer is to ask the Holy Spirit to pray in us and give us what we want or what we need to pray,” said Sister Juana. The faithful should “be open to the grace of God that he wants to give us.”

One of the simplest things you can do in prayer, said the nun, is to gaze upon Christ and know that he is with you.

“We don’t have to say much,” said Sister Juana. “Just look at him and love him and know that he is loving us. He is with us.”

It’s in that silence that we hear him, that we know him, that he makes himself known to us.”

There are many reasons to pray, but just as parents may want simply to spend time with their children without being asked for things, so God wants.

“Anytime we turn to God, it’s good,” said Brother Chris Balent, a Trappist monk at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey in Lafayette. The monk said that Christians should be encouraged to turn to God all day long. “It’s this gift we have — to pray for God to be with us in everything we do.”

What comes after the initial action of turning to God, however, is a different story. Brother Chris cites the parable in Luke of the pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple. In the story, the pharisee prays with confidence in his own righteousness and looks down on everyone else. The tax collector, meanwhile, turns to God humbly and in search of mercy for his transgressions. Jesus holds up the tax collector’s prayer as ideal, not the pharisee’s.

“For everyone who raises himself up will be humbled, but anyone who humbles himself will be raised up,” Jesus said in Luke 18:14. People are by nature a mixture of both the tax collector and the pharisee, said Brother Chris.

There’s a depth and breadth to prayer, said Brother Chris. Depth comes from one’s everyday faith life. And breadth comes from an openness to oneself, an openness to everyone else and an openness to all of creation. He added that the pharisee in Luke did not come to prayer with an openness, but rather enclosed.

“For me, openness is the ability to ask the tough questions and being as honest and truthful as we can,” he said. “The openness is really this invitation to think bigger and bigger and expand our hearts in a way that life’s just become this huge great gift.”

The depth and breadth of prayer feed into each other, said Brother Chris. By growing in these two elements, “a person becomes more and more one who is rejoicing always, praying constantly and giving thanks in all things.”

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org