In the last several issues of the article, I have been considering the 28th Step on Climacus’ Ladder of Ascent. That step deals with PRAYER. St. John has much to say about prayer. When we are still learning to pray, we may end up asking for the wrong things. We allow our passions to dictate the petitions we make to God. So it is no wonder that our prayers are not always answered. But praying for others – even if we are praying for something we think is best for that person, when God knows it is not – is unselfish. We think of charity as being something that concerns only material things – giving food or money to the needy – but prayer itself is an act of charity: we give up some of our time to dedicate to praying for others. Even if we are not experts in prayer and possess a weak faith, we should not refuse to pray for others, nor should we think our faith is the reason our prayers for them have been answered.
St. John states so clearly this:
Do not refuse a request to pray for the soul of another, even when you yourself lack the gift of prayer. For often the very faith of the person making the request will evoke the saving contrition of the one who is to offer the prayer. Do not become conceited when you have prayed for others and have been heard, for it is their faith which has been active and efficacious.
During our set times of prayer, we can often be distracted by thoughts – conversations we had, things we are anxious about, someone who has upset us, and so on. We should not allow these distractions to make us give up praying. We must persist; otherwise we will never learn to overcome such distractions and we will end up praying less and less. Those making a beginning of prayer, frequently become distracted and have to make a conscious effort to bring their minds back to the task at hand. All will come with practice and patience. Stay focused on the task at hand and don’t give up.