Do you truly know how to pray? A prayer primer with Msgr. John Esseff Discerning Hearts Podcast

Do you truly know how to pray? A prayer primer with Msgr. John Esseff Discerning Hearts Podcast

In a profound episode of Discerning Hearts Catholic Podcasts, Msgr. John Esseff and Kris McGregor delve into the essence of prayer and its central role in the Christian life. Msgr. Esseff, with decades of experience in spiritual guidance, emphasizes that prayer is foundational, akin to kindergarten, where one learns the basic, yet crucial aspects of communicating with God. He insists that prayer is not just a ritual but a conversation that necessitates the presence of God. Without this presence, prayer risks becoming an empty gesture.

Drawing on Jesus’ example, Msgr. Esseff encourages finding solitude and silence for prayer, underlining the importance of establishing a relationship with God. He uses the parable of the ten virgins from Matthew’s Gospel to illustrate the difference between merely performing religious acts and cultivating a personal connection with God. This relationship is rooted in understanding one’s identity as God’s child, which then shapes the way one prays.

Kris McGregor broaches the common challenge of discerning God’s voice in prayer. Msgr. Esseff acknowledges this difficulty and suggests that spiritual direction can be invaluable in learning to distinguish and understand the divine communication.

In conclusion, Msgr. Esseff stresses that prayer is not just about asking or saying things to God but also about listening and being open to His will. He urges listeners to approach prayer with a focus on forming a deep relationship with God, which, in turn, empowers them to be channels of God’s peace in the world. The podcast is a reminder of the transformative power of prayer in the Christian journey.

Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

  1. Understanding Prayer as Relationship:
    • How do you currently perceive prayer in your life? Is it more of a routine or a relational conversation with God?
    • Reflect on the idea that prayer is like kindergarten. In what ways are you learning the basics of prayer, and how can you grow in this area?
  2. Presence of God in Prayer:
    • Recall a time when you felt God’s presence strongly during prayer. What was different about that experience compared to other times?
    • How can you create a conducive environment for recognizing God’s presence in your daily prayer life?
  3. The Role of Solitude and Silence:
    • What are the distractions that most commonly interfere with your prayer life? How can you minimize these distractions?
    • How can you incorporate solitude and silence into your daily routine to enhance your prayer experience?
  4. Personal Relationship with God:
    • Reflect on the parable of the ten virgins. In what ways are you like the wise virgins, and in what ways are you like the foolish ones in your spiritual life?
    • What practical steps can you take to strengthen your personal relationship with God?
  5. Identity as a Child of God:
    • How does understanding your identity as a child of God change the way you approach prayer?
    • In moments of prayer, how can you remind yourself of this identity and its significance?
  6. Listening to God:
    • What are some of the challenges you face in listening to God during prayer?
    • How can you develop a more discerning heart to recognize and understand God’s voice?
  7. The Importance of Spiritual Direction:
    • Have you ever considered seeking spiritual direction? If not, what might be holding you back?
    • How can a spiritual director assist you in deepening your prayer life and relationship with God?
  8. Applying the ‘Our Father’ Prayer:
    • Reflect on how you usually pray the ‘Our Father’. How can you pray it more thoughtfully and intentionally, considering Msgr. Esseff’s insights?
    • How does the ‘Our Father’ encapsulate your relationship with God and your daily spiritual needs?

Msgr. Esseff offers a basic of prayer, R.I.M. – Relationship, Identity, and Mission.

Matthew 6:9-13 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

Pray then like this:

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done,
    On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread;[a]
12 And forgive us our debts,
    As we also have forgiven our debtors;
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    But deliver us from evil.[b]


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