Pope Francis' universal prayer intention for May is "Respect for Women." One innovative way to pray with the Pope this month is to invite women into prayer. Author Julie Dortch Cragon can help, with her unique and refreshing new book from Franciscan Media, Talking to God: Prayers for Catholic Women.
I was delighted to write the foreword for Talking to God. Today I'll share some excerpts from what I wrote, in hopes you will pick up a copy of the book for yourself or a woman you love.
Pope Francis comes out swinging in his 2013 document The Joy of the Gospel:
I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. (3)
The Pope’s boldness stuns me. He’s pointing to all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment! Not a single one of us is off the hook. All of us need to encounter Jesus personally in a new way, right now.
But how can we have a “renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ” in our busy lives? And what does it mean to cultivate “an openness” to letting Jesus encounter us?
The answer is simple, if not always easy: we encounter Jesus, and he encounters us, through prayer. Prayer changes everything in our relationship with the Lord.
Studies show that Christians generally agree prayer is essential to their faith. Nonetheless, our lives become so harried that few of us actually feel good about how much time we spend praying every day.
There are two excellent ways to approach prayer that will ensure we encounter Jesus in person each and every day:
1. Shattering the categories of “prayer time” and “normal time” by intentionally converting our daily tasks into prayer
2. Making a commitment to daily prayer by setting aside non-negotiable appointments to spend time with the Lord
The first approach, turning everyday occurrences into prayer, is something I experience every day in my work on the staff of the international Apostleship of Prayer. Founded in 1844 in France, the Apostleship of Prayer encourages Christians to offer their daily prayers, thoughts, words, actions, joys, and sufferings in union with Jesus, for the salvation of the world. Apostles of Prayer begin their day with a morning offering prayer, setting the stage for a day filled with intentional discipleship.
When God became human, he redeemed all human activity, making it possible for anything truly human to take on divine importance.
Converting daily encounters into lifesaving prayer changes us. This way of living faith in daily life can only be sustained, however, if we nourish our relationship with God through periods of formal prayer. That’s why this book is so important. The book you hold in your hands (and which you will hopefully give as a gift to other women!) includes a timely prayer for every need of your life.
Women in every phase of life, in every walk of life, will find prayers to accompany them. These aren’t saccharine, all-purpose prayers, either. Oh, no! Whether we struggle with unhealthy eating habits, difficult marriages, unwillingness to accept advice, or a host of other common challenges, we find in this book words that will help us draw closer to the Lord.
One surprising blessing of Julie Cragon’s book is the acceptance we find in its pages. We might be tempted to think "I am the only pregnant woman in the world who sneaks cigarettes," or "No one understands what it’s like to have her best friend commit suicide." But then we browse through the table of contents and spot a chapter for our particular need, and we know we are not alone. We realize not only that other women encounter the same situation, but also that the Lord himself wants to accompany us in this moment.
With all we have to do, we easily let prayer time slip away. Women, unite! Let’s use this new prayer book to encounter God, and to pray for one another.
Grace Mazza Urbanski, Apostleship of Prayer
Author, Pray with Me: Seven Simple Ways to Pray with Your Children