What the world most needs today is prayer.
There are plenty of excellent books about prayer. Is there honestly any need for another one? Not really. I have already written a book on this subject some years ago, and I was not planning to write another. However, in spite of the risk of repeating myself on certain points, I recently felt impelled to write this present book, in the hope that it could help certain people to persevere along the path of personal prayer or to start out on it. I often go to preach retreats in many different countries, and I am struck by the thirst for prayer that is apparent today among so many people from every different walk of life and every kind of calling; but also by the need that exists for definite signposts to ensure their perseverance and the fruitfulness of their prayer life.
What the world most needs today is prayer. It is prayer that will give birth to all the renewals, healings, deep and fruitful transformations we all want for society today. This world of ours is very sick, and only contact with heaven will be able to cure it. The most useful thing for the Church to do today is to give people a thirst for prayer and teach them to pray.
Helping people to acquire a taste for prayer, helping them to persevere on the path of prayer, which is not always an easy one, is the biggest gift one can give them. Those who have prayer have everything, because on that basis God can freely enter their lives and act in them, working the marvels of his grace. I am more and more convinced that everything comes from prayer and that, among the calls of the Spirit, this is the first and most urgent one we should respond to. To be renewed in prayer is to be renewed in all the aspects of our lives, to find a new youthfulness. More than ever, God the Father is seeking those who will worship him in Spirit and in truth (cf. Jn 4:24).
In this field, obviously, we don't all have the same call or the same possibilities. But we should do what we can, for God will be faithful. I know lay people fully taken up by their family and work commitments who in twenty minutes of daily prayer receive as many graces as monks who pray for five hours a day. God so urgently desires to reveal himself, to show his fatherly face to all of us, poor and little as we are, so that he can be our light, our healing, our happiness. And this is especially true given that the world we live in is such a difficult one.
It is always useful to talk about prayer, because it involves the most important aspects of the spiritual life and also of human life.
I would like, then, in this book, to offer some very simple suggestions, within everyone's grasp, to encourage those who wish to respond to this call and guide them in their development, so that the deep inner encounter with God which is the aim of prayer may take place. So that they may find effectively, in their faithfulness to prayer, the strength and peace they need for their lives to bear fruit in abundance, as our Lord desires.
I shall be talking essentially about personal prayer. Communal prayer, especially participation in the Church's liturgy, is a basic dimension of Christian life, and it is not my intention to undervalue it. However, I shall speak mainly about personal prayer, because that is where people generally encounter most difficulties. What's more, without personal prayer, communal prayer risks being merely superficial and not having all its beauty and value. A liturgical and sacramental life that is not nourished by a personal encounter with God and is not at the service of that encounter can become tedious and sterile.
The world is going through difficult times, and they may perhaps become more difficult still. All the more reason for us to be deeply rooted in prayer, as Jesus invites us in the Gospel:
Watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man (Lk 21:36).
Father Jacques Philippe. "Introduction." from Thirsting for Prayer (New York, NY: Scepter Press, 2014): v-vii.
Reprinted with permission of Scepter Press.
Father Philippe is a French priest, a member of the Community of the Beatitudes, and a renowned spiritual director. He is author of many books, including Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart. Discover more here.