This past week, I spent some relaxing time with some friends who have a bed and breakfast in the Black Hills of northeast Wyoming. They have been running the business for the past six years and have made the acquaintance of many interesting people who have enjoyed their stays at the B&B.
They advertise only on the Internet and on their website patrons have the opportunity to comment on their overnight experience. All the comments received over the past six years have been quite positive, until last week.
A comment received last week was their first online complaint. A recent guest wrote to say that his teenage son was “appalled” that a prayer was offered prior to breakfast on the morning of their departure. My friends took the negative comment in stride and it was certainly fodder for lively conversation among us.
“Was the teenage son really the one who was appalled?”
“Are teenagers appalled at anything?”
“Perhaps the teenager’s father, who had written the comment, was really the one who was appalled.”
“Was it appropriate to offer prayer before that meal or any other meal at their B&B?”
While everyone in our group agreed that prayer before a meal is most appropriate, perhaps the incident begged a bigger question. Perhaps a good starting point might be to define prayer. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, prayer is “the elevation of the mind and heart to God in praise of his glory; a petition made to God for some desired good, or in thanksgiving for a good received, or in intercession for others before God.”
Generally speaking, prayer is communication with God, the Catechism speaks of “the elevation of mind and heart to God.”
While I cannot see into the mind of complainant and his motivation for writing his comment, I have found myself wondering what he had found so appalling about the prayer offered.
Quite likely, I will never know what went on in his mind to lead him to his complaint, or what has gone on in his life to lead him to such an attitude. However, the episode has led me to take a closer look into my own prayer life. Do I pray as much as I should? What leads me to communicate with God? For what do I pray?
Essentially, there are three types of prayer: prayers of praise, prayers of thanksgiving, and prayers of petition.
Personally, my prayer tends mostly to be in petition, asking for God’s help. Selfishly, most of the time, such prayer is for me, but many times for others.
Increasingly, over the years, more of my prayer has been in thanksgiving. I have many reasons to be thankful to our All Loving God. Everything is a gift, a gift from God. Our lives, our families, our health, our next breath, all are a gift from God. You name it, it’s all gift. Everything! It’s all a gift from our generous God!
I certainly fall down, and have lots of room for improvement, when it comes to prayers of praise. I need to honor, adore and give glory to God more than I do and have done in the past. Have I rightly given praise to God in the past? Certainly. Can I praise God more? You bet!
What about you? Where are you in your prayer life? Do you pray? Might you pray more? What do you pray for?
My little experience at the B&B gave me cause to ponder my relationship with God. And it gave me a reason to ponder how others in our society view their relationships with God.
Is it appropriate to pray, even outside a personal setting? Yes, it is, regardless of what you hear or read otherwise. God cannot be separated from the world He created.
I pray that this little article gives you cause to consider your relationship with God, hopefully, a coaxing to review your prayer life.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thess. 5:16
Father Jim Heiser serves at Holy Name Catholic Church.