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Prayer and Gratefulness

Prayerfulness is what counts in life, not individual prayers, says Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast. In Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, he says prayer is an attitude of the heart that can transform everything we do. We can’t be saying prayers all the time, of course, but we ought to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), which means keeping ourselves open to the meaning of life. That’s why gratefulness is prayerfulness, says Br. David, since moments in which we drink deeply from the Source of meaning are moments of prayer.

So prayer itself is grateful loving, he explains. Being grateful turns all our activities into a form of thankfulness. The individual prayers we say or think are more like poems of our prayer life. These “poems” may celebrate or express our gratitude, for example, when we are awed by the wonders we see, and in the process heighten our gratefulness all the more. In the process of saying them, our gratefulness grows.

Genuine prayer comes from “the heart, from that realm of my being where I am one with all,” he states. 2 When we pray we are interdependent, connecting to others in a joyful give-and-take, a sense of belonging to one another. When we prepare to pray, we unite ourselves with others who are close to God. Christian tradition calls this the communion of saints.

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – Brother David Steindl-Rast, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer (Mahwah, MJ: Paulist Press, 1984).

2 Ibid., p. 52.