And it came to pass, that as He was in a certain place praying.
When He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him: “Lord,
teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
— Luke 11:1
It was over two thousand years ago that the disciples of Jesus asked Him to teach them to pray. The desire both to know how to pray and to have a prayer life that is satisfying is one that continues to stir in hearts today.
Our Lord lovingly fulfilled the disciples’ request when He taught them to pray the Our Father (Luke 11:1–4). By His example, He showed them the necessity of going to a quiet place to pray, to receive guidance and spiritual nourishment (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; Matt. 14:23).
While addressing the crowd gathered on the mount, Jesus was likewise] reminding the disciples, “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:6).
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen received this same request that was made of Our Lord: teach us to pray. His students, his parishioners, and his worldwide audience would ask him about ways to pray and about his favorite prayers.
With this in mind, Sheen was keen to encourage people to make prayer a daily, holy habit. To Catholics, he would specifically recommend attending Holy Mass daily whenever possible, to set aside time to pray a Holy Hour, and to pray the Way of the Cross in union with Our Lord’s Passion.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was known to have often said: “I do not want my life to be mine. I want it to be Christ’s.” He had cultivated an intimate prayer life with Christ, and he wanted to share it with everyone.
Over the years, while hosting The Catholic Hour radio show, Sheen produced several little prayer books with the help of the National Council of Catholic Men. These prayer books were printed and distributed in the hundreds of thousands, and some are still in distribution. The themes of these prayer books have been incorporated into this anthology.
Here, Archbishop Sheen will take us on a journey of prayer, a mini retreat highlighting the central events in the life of Christ: His Passion, His Death, His Resurrection, His sending of the Holy Spirit, and His coming again in glory.
Through Sheen’s thoughtful meditations and reflections, the reader will be invited to follow Christ, to imitate Him, to learn from Him, to possess Him, and to be possessed by Him.
Each of the six chapters in this book has a unique theme, presented in that classic Sheen style, both deep and succinct: “The Our Father,” “The Mass,” “The Holy Hour,” “Thoughts for Meditation,” “The Way of the Cross,” and “Prayers of Meditation and Petition.”
On the topic of Our Father, we will begin with Sheen’s Good Friday address of April 19, 1935. During this reflection, in order to help bring the reader into a deeper understanding of the Lord’s Prayer, Sheen uses as a teaching tool the lens of the seven last words spoken by Our Lord from the Cross.
Employing once again the same lens of the seven last words, Archbishop Sheen sheds further light on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which Our Lord instituted on Holy Thursday. Sheen’s classic “Calvary and the Mass,” penned in 1936, is included in the second chapter.
In the third chapter, Archbishop Sheen presents his insights on the Holy Hour. The reader will find a number of moving meditations that will lend themselves to making a fruitful Holy Hour. Some might ask, “Why spend an hour a day in meditation?” to which Archbishop Sheen would respond, “Because we are living on the surface of our souls, knowing little either of God or our inner self. Our knowledge is mostly about things, not about destiny.”
The fourth chapter contains a popular version of the Way of the Cross. It is hoped that these beautiful indulgenced prayers will enkindle a holy love for the Crucified Savior.
The final two chapters of this book are made up of holy reflections and prayers, eliciting “heart speaks to heart” moments. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
In this book, Archbishop Sheen not only unpacks the central mysteries of the Catholic Faith but also, in his inimitable way, crystallizes what it is to have a meaningful relationship with God.
Everyone is called to prayer and relationship. It is my hope that in reading this volume, the reader will experience a sentiment similar to Archbishop Sheen’s: “I do not want my life to be mine. I want it to be Christ’s.”
This article is adapted from a chapter in Lord, Teach Us To Pray by Fulton J. Sheen which is available from Sophia Institute Press.
Art for this post on Prayer: Cover and featured image used with permission.