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Learning to Pray

Selections from Peter Kreeft's "Prayer for Beginners"

Dr. Peter Kreeft has authored dozens of books, ranging from the works of Thomas Aquinas to imaginative dialogues with a re-incarnate Socrates, from books for children to books on surfing.

Recently, I encountered his short primer Prayer for Beginners (c. 2000), and found it pastorally helpful and inspiring. Kreeft writes from a Roman Catholic perspective, but this little book should prove helpful to the Catholic and non-Catholic alike (like myself).

Here is a smattering of some of the most intriguing passages:

  • “Prayer gives truth to our mind, goodness to our will, and beauty to our heart. ‘The true, the good, and the beautiful’ are the three things we need and love the most because they are three attributes of God. Prayer gives truth to our mind because it puts us in the presence of Truth itself … It gives goodness to our will because it puts us ‘on line’ with God, in love with the God who is love and goodness … It gives beauty to our heart because it plunges us into the heart of God, which is the eternal energy of infinite joy.”
  • “God is God, the Absolute Reality, Infinite Perfection, more massively real than the universe itself and more worthy than all the ideals together ever conceived by all human minds … Thus we should pray because prayer is the most realistic thing in the world to do. It is our acknowledgement of reality, our right response to reality, our honesty with reality.”
  • “We are one day nearer Home today that we ever were before. I guarantee you that after you die you will not say ‘I spent too much time praying; I wish I had watched more TV instead.’ We must learn to pray because infinite and uncompromising Love will not leave us alone until we do.”
  • “To know anyone, you must not just know thousands of things about him, but you must know him, you must meet him, you must spend time with him … One moment of prayer, of weak worship, confused contrition, tepid thanksgiving, or pitiful petition will bring us closer to god than all the books of theology in the world. Saint James says, sarcastically, ‘So you know that there is one God? Oh, good for you! The demons also know that, but tremble with fear’ (James 2:19, my paraphrase).” (Kreeft’s paraphrase)
  • “Prayer is easier than we think. We want to think it is too hard or too high and holy for us, because that gives us an excuse for not doing it … Can you talk to a friend? Then you can talk to God, for he is your Friend. And that is what prayer is … But this ‘free and familiar’ conversation is not idle chatter. It is not flip and casual. God is not our pet or our pop psychologist. God is God: utterly awesome, infinitely great. The familiarity of prayer is wonderful because it is familiarity with God.
  • “Repentance is an act of a love. One of the most stupid and false lines in any movie in history is the famous line in Love Story: ‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry.’ On the contrary, it is only love that says ‘I’m sorry.’”

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