Maurizio Chiodi. The formulas that teach how to pray (6)

The formula does not correspond to prayer itself, but it helps to give it body and concreteness. As in “I adore you”, which suggests the feeling of offering, in the morning, and of forgiveness invoked in the evening

We are happy to publish online the contribution of Maurizio Chiodi proposed during a spirituality meeting dedicated to the families of the “La Pietra Scartata” Association and the Ai.Bi. Amici dei Bambini and reprized in issue no. 12 of the semi-annual magazine “Lemà sabactàni? – contributions for a culture of hospitality“.
The notes proposed by Fr Maurizio Chiodi – professor of moral theology at the Pontifical Institute “John Paul II” in Rome and the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy in Milan, author of the book Drama, gift, welcome. Anthropology and theology of adoption (Edizioni San Paolo, 2020), inspirer of the La Pietra Scartata Association and its first Spiritual Advisor, as well as editorial director of the magazine “Lemà Sabactàni?”- their sole purpose is to favor and invite every Christian family to live the ‘extraordinary’ experience of prayer.
With prayer, it is certainly not a question of burdening families with further duties, burdens to bear or obligations to observe. On the contrary – observes Chiodi – «prayer is upstream and downstream of the gift of the Spirit: ‘upstream’, because it is like a place that prepares space and time to welcome the Breath of God, who gives us himself, and ‘downstream’ because it is the fruit of this grace that slowly shapes and transforms our life, making us the image of the Son who is the image of the Father“, As the apostle Paul says”and all of us, with our faces uncovered, reflecting the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are transformed into that same image, from glory to glory, according to the action of the Spirit of the Lord“(2 Cor 3:18).

The seven stages in which the text is proposed and which will mark the precious reflection of Fr Maurizio Chiodi, highlight the original and constitutive relationship between prayer and faith, the family as a ‘place’ of prayer and a privileged form of education to the faith, the resistances and objections that stand in the way of those who want to introduce themselves to prayer, the link between family and Christian community, the concrete forms of prayer.

Sixth stage (To read the fifth HERE)

The forms of prayer

A final question, linked to the concrete forms of prayer, is that of formulas. Of these, both the importance and the limit must be reiterated. In fact, they are both necessary and relative, but it is certainly wrong to think that they are not needed.
It would be enough to remember that Jesus himself, following the strong insistence of his disciples, taught us to pray by giving us a formula, the Our Father (Lk 11: 1-4, Mt 6: 7-15). He himself also belonged to a prayerful tradition, that of the Jewish people, which had numerous moments of prayer during the day, with the corresponding formulas. The same church, over the centuries, has instituted the liturgical prayer of the hours, putting in the times of a day are closely related to the ‘formulas’ of the psalmody. We have already spoken of this form of prayer.
On the other hand, it is also true that the formulas cannot be identified with prayer tout court and therefore with our ‘giving time’ to God, first of all by pausing in his presence. The formulas help to give body and substance to prayer. In this sense they are an initiation into it. However, they do not cancel, but open the way to more personal expressions. For their part, the formulas also have the great advantage of being shared and therefore communal: they allow us to pray all together and have been given to us by those who discovered them before us, almost letting them emerge from their own journey of faith. Precisely for this reason formulas have the advantage of offering us words that instruct us on what we must ask for. Nobody learns to talk except by listening to others talk. This also happens in prayer and not only for children.
Of course, it must also be recognized that the formulas are not all alike and necessarily good. Therefore it is necessary knowing how to choose the right ones and above all the most beautiful ones to teach our children. There are some very informative ones. It would be enough to think, among those consecrated by tradition, of the prayer of the angel of God or of the Angelus or that of the I adore you.

I would like to comment briefly – in a purely paradigmatic way – the formula of I adore you, in the morning and in the evening. In my opinion, these two prayers contain and suggest the fundamental attitudes linked to Christian prayer. The two formulas, that of the morning and that of the evening, have in common that they are a prayer that it begins with an act of adoration and love, and with a particularly personal and confidential tone (my God): “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart.” These simple words call to the conscience of the person praying that God alone deserves to be adored and recognized as the One: faith consists in this. To adore means to entrust oneself to him, recognizing that he is our Origin and therefore recognizing that between us and him there is a radical difference, which nevertheless does not take away the relationship, but presupposes it, without this falling into fear: “you have not received a spirit of slaves to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adopted children through which we cry: ‘Abba, Father!’ “(Rom 8:15). Adoration expresses the fascination and attraction that God exerts towards human desire, as s effectively begins. Augustine in his Confessions (1,1,1): “you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until he rests in you”. In the context of this fundamental attitude of faith, the two formulas of the I adore you, both that of the morning and that of the evening, then suggest the feeling of gratitude: «I thank you for having created me, redeemed me and made me a Christian». From faith comes gratitude.
Ti adoro suggests the sentiment of the offerin the morning, and forgiveness invoked in the evening. «I offer you the actions of the day: make them all according to your holy will, for your greater glory. Preserve me from sin and from all evil “: the offer of the day predisposes to action and an obedient commitment to the good will of God, and asks, in prayer, that one’s actions remain far from evil, lies and violence.
The evening prayer highlights, as in a very quick examination of conscience at the end of the day, the request, addressed to God, for his forgiveness, together with the grateful recognition of the good done during the day: “Forgive me the evil I have committed and, if I have done some good, accept it ». «Keep me in rest, free me from dangers».
Everything, offering as well as forgiveness, is possible only with the experience of God’s grace, which is given precisely in the good experiences of life. Prayer, both in the morning and in the evening, therefore ends with entrusting to God not only oneself, but all loved ones: “Your grace be always with me and with all my loved ones”. This prayer, easy even for children, is a powerful, highly effective and educational synthesis of Christian prayer

Maurizio Chiodi. The formulas that teach how to pray (6)