The Simple Catholic Snapshots:
- A simple mnemonic can add structure and help us remember things
- For prayer, some people use the word A.C.T.S
- I found using the word CAPTAIN adds richness and focus to my daily prayers:
C – Contrition
A – Almighty
P – Petition
T – Thanksgiving
A – Adoration
IN – INtentions
The Simple Catholic Truth:
In this Advent season, I’ve committed myself to improving my dismal prayer life. Prayer should be such an easy task I say, just sitting quietly and focusing on God. But often it doesn’t go well. Not long after prayer time begins, my mind frequently begins to wander. Much like Dug the talking dog in the movie ‘UP’, I invariably am plagued by a barrage of personal “squirrel” moments. You know, those moments when the mind is cruising along doing one thing (in this case prayer) and then BAM! out of the blue comes an instant distraction… a squirrel moment.
Now admit it, we all have our own squirrel moments, right?
Well, to help overcome my moments of distractions during prayer I went on the search for a simple tool to help me stay focused. One the most common is to use the mnemonic “ACTS” which is a reminder for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. This is pretty good but I thought that the emphasis was a little out of order and a couple of topics missing. To keep a long story a little shorter, I finally settled on the word “CAPTAIN”.
I’ll break out each letter below with its meaning but at the highest level the word reminds me that I am not in charge, that God is the CAPTAIN of my ship. I think of Jesus in Matthew 8:23-27 calming the furious storm while the apostles were helpless in fear.
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
When I begin to pray, I must always remember to stay calm. Even when facing the storms of my imperfect faith, I must remember that God is my Captain and will guide me to safety.
So now lets look at the letters C.A.P.T.A.IN :
C – Contrition (with Humility)
When we begin to pray, set aside pride and will. We must approach God with a contrite and humble heart. Humility is the foundation of prayer in so much as it allows us to ask God for help. We can not pray effectively without the grace of God and this should be our first notion. We should ask our Captain to take charge of this prayer session, to calm our spirits and direct our path.
Once our frame of mind is established in genuine humility, it is natural then that our shortcomings before God are offered. Somewhat like the examination of conscience before Confession, bringing our sins before God in prayer is liberating and bonding.
A – Almighty
This section of prayer goes hand in glove with the first section of Contrition (and Humility). Here we draw attention to the nature of Almighty God. I like to recall St. Thomas Aquinas’ eight attributes of God:
God has No Parts
God is Omni-Present
God is Perfect
God does not Change
God is Good
God is Eternal
God is Infinite
God is One
I reflect on Almighty God – infinite and incomprehensible.
I think of Gn 1:1, “In the Beginning…”, the Creation from nothing, caused only by the will of Almighty God.
Our God is Awesome.
P – Petition
Too often we think of petitions as asking for what we want or what we think we want. Having just finished the Contrition and Almighty section of our prayer it should be easier to see the proper focus of petitions. We should lead with asking God for what He knows we need. We should ask for the wisdom to see His will and the faith to accept His direction in life.
Of course it is proper to then to ask for help. God knows what we will ask for but even by asking, our relationship with God is strengthened. Our petition acknowledges our helplessness and is an act of turning back to Him. Christ, who assumed all things in order to redeem all things, is glorified by what we ask the Father in his name. It is with this confidence that St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times.
T – Thanksgiving
Being thankful is sometimes difficult, not because of ingratitude but rather simple human distraction.
I tend to focus on the pain or voids and not the fullness. In other words, my cup could be dearly running over and I would dwell on the empty spaces. A proper prayer of thanksgiving should see the glass, whatever level of fullness, to be the will and blessing of God.
This can be difficult to achieve because once again as fallen children we tend to focus on what ME doesn’t have instead of what HE has already blessed us with. This takes practice and why continual prayer is so important.
A – Adoration
Its now time to really slow down and take a deep breath.
Now is the time to give God His just due. From perfect Love I was created to love. Here, I like to think about God as my Father. I think of approaching him as a child with arms lifted, just wanting to picked up and held. My Father loves me.
I then recall the cross and my crucified king. Jesus Christ my brother, who loves me so much He walked to Calvary for me. And I think about my love for Him.
Finally, I think of the Advocate, and the power of the Holy Spirit in my life. I envision His graces flowing into my soul, transforming me back again into the image and likeness of God the Father. Exhale and reflect on the power of God.
IN – INtentions (INtercession)
Finally I recall that we are all one in the Body of Christ. As members of the body, both living and dead, we can and must support and help each other receive the graces of everlasting life. Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men. We should pray as Jesus prays.
But being like Jesus is so difficult. He teaches us that we should pray not only for our own interest, but for others to the point of praying for those that might do us harm. Recall Jesus’ words on the cross… ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do…’ The prayer of intercession recognizes no boundaries. How can I love my enemies like that?
Only by and through the grace of God. And that is what I pray for.