By Lilla Ross
Father Eamon Tobin grew up in Ireland in a family where daily prayer was an unquestioned part of life. Every morning his father knelt on the kitchen floor to say his morning prayers before going to the fields, and he would stop again at noon to recite the Angelus.
That sounds strange to most American Catholics, but Father Tobin hopes to encourage people to incorporate prayer into their busy lives with his new book, 13 Powerful Ways to Pray.
“It all comes down to deciding what’s really important. We always have time for what’s important,” said Father Tobin, pastor of Ascension Catholic Church in Melbourne, Fla. “There was a time I played tennis, and I always made sure to get there because it was important. And we need to do the same thing with prayer.”
When people have a difficult time praying, it is sometimes because they have a poor self-image, thinking they are unworthy or think of God as stern and judgmental, he said.
“I think it is good for us to ponder our image of God. Is he loving or judgmental? I ask people, who loves you more than anyone? A parent, a spouse, a friend? Do you think God loves you that much? God loves us way more than that, but we may not believe it,” he said. “And when you pray you are conversing with someone who knows all your shortcomings and flaws and loves you unconditionally.”
Prayer needs to be incorporated into daily life, he said. “I could go to Mass every day, say the rosary every day but be judgmental and not care about the poor. That’s a great example of ineffective prayer.”
He suggests to married couples that every day they offer a simple prayer asking God to help them be a good husband or wife that day. “When you pray that sincerely, it makes it more difficult to be a jerk,” he said.
13 Power Ways to Pray is a practical guide for people unfamiliar with the various styles of prayer, and people who have an established prayer life will find suggestions to freshen up traditional prayers.
The mysteries of the rosary, for instance, can be used as a way to contemplate and pray for modern-day needs: The Annunciation – to pray for couples trying to conceive or for women making decisions about unplanned pregnancies, or the Scourging at the Pillar to pray for victims of domestic violence or global terrorism.
The other forms of prayer covered in the book are thanksgiving, petition, intercession, contrition, forgiveness, and examination of conscience. He also discusses how to pray using a spiritual journal or spiritual reading, in contemplation and adoration; and how to pray over a decision or during a difficult “dry spell.”
Father Tobin said he thinks the book is especially useful for small groups, where people can support each other as they explore different types of prayer. Each chapter has questions for contemplation or discussion and exercises to try.