St. Augustine sees the desire for God at the heart of prayer. We need to “pray always with unwearied desire.” Prayer is not bringing a list of our needs to God, who already knows them. It begins with the thirst we have for the One who loves us and gives us life.
Just as we set aside certain times to eat because we’re not always aware of our hunger, so we set aside times to pray, because we’re not aware of our desire. We need to put aside certain times to pray.
“At set times and seasons we pray to God in words, so that by these signs we may instruct ourselves and mark the progress we have made in our desire, and spur ourselves on to deepen it. “
The words of prayer are teachers of prayer, we grow in prayer by paying attention to them.
“The more fervent the desire, the more worthy will be its fruit. When the Apostle tells us: Pray without ceasing, he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him who alone is able to give it.” (Letter to Proba)
“O Lord, open my lips.”
“O God, come to my assistance.”
The liturgy begins with these short prayers, asking God to stir up the gift of prayer within us, especially a desire for the God of all. Desire itself is a gift of God.