1 - Observing other people pray.
2 - Getting to know God better by learning about Him in Scripture and Theology.
Watching other people pray has helped me see that I might actually not be crazy to believe in prayer, that there are many ways to pray and that prayer is deeply personal.
In nearly every other aspect of life practices we learn by observing, so it makes sense that observing others in prayer would help us to grow and learn. I see others around me who I trust giving serious amounts of time and effort in their lives of prayer and I grow in confidence that prayer is real and something that we were made to do as human persons.
Then, when I read about Christ in scripture and can come to conclusions about who our God is for us, I see that prayer offers an infinite depth to our understanding of life. It seems to me that prayer offers us a connection into the mystical reality that is constantly around us. If we can come to see and know that God is constant, infinite and all loving, we see then that He is always around us and desires us to communicate with us constantly. This has a profound impact on how we look at the reality of intercession.
When you or I ask for a saint in heaven or loved one on earth to pray for us, there is a spiritual bond taking place that makes God present to us in a unique way. As I prayed today before beginning some work and eating my bagel, I thought about my wife who asked me to pray for her that the school mass she would be attending would go well. I thought about how God is constantly with the two of us in a profound way, no matter the distance. So when I bring Sarah to mind in prayer and offer that to God, there is a connection that is made present to me that has constantly existed in the mind of God.
God, who holds us in His mind and love eternally allows us to connect with one another in that offering of love. So in a way, when I pray for Sarah, God allows me a minor participation in His constant love and life for Sarah. That prayer of God is perfect and for me to participate in His will to bring all good things to Sarah through His creation (me included) is profound. Since God cannot refrain from thinking of us each individually, we can know that prayer is ALWAYS effective. There is a connection between each of us that is stronger and faster than any other kind of communication. We are all in the mind of God and for us to bring persons we know and love to our minds is a participation in that mystical communion. That is why every time we receive communion, we make present and physical that mystical reality of connection. The God that is present in me is also present in every person who has received communion in the whole world and in all of history.
So let us be a people not only trust in prayer, but who rely on it totally. Only when we think about and know how we are always in the mind of God can the words of Saint Paul to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thes. 5:17) make sense to us and become a possibility for us. The next time you offer up another in prayer, know that God has been thinking about that person for all of creation and desires nothing less than the good for them, just as you do. May we be a people who pray with hopeful expectations to the God of miracles who always thinks of us and allows us to participate in His constant love for all of creation.