Online Course in Spiritual Theology

OCST07 “Lord, teach us to pray.” Introduction to Christian Prayer



Prayer is the lifeblood of our Christian life. Despite the many books on prayer and meditation in our libraries and bookshops, many spiritual seekers lack a solid foundation in Christian prayer. This course hopes to provide a Biblical, theological and practical foundation to Christian prayer.

The intention of this course is to give students a basic foundation in Christian prayer as seen in the Bible, particularly the New Testament (Jesus as a model of prayer). We will also examine and reflect on prayer in the living tradition, particularly prayer in the Carmelite tradition as taught by St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross. We will also briefly examine contemporary methods of prayer.

The course will develop in the following manner. As an introduction, we will reflect on the question: ‘What is prayer?’ From there we will reflect on Jesus as our model prayer, particularly in the Synoptic Gospels. This will lead us into the theme of praying the Bible (lectio divina) and the Psalms as a school of prayer. Following this Biblical foundation, we will examine the living Christian tradition, particularly from the Carmelite tradition: the divine indwelling as foundation for the Christian understanding of the human person and prayer; prayer as friendship with Christ; St. Teresa’s prayer of recollection, prayer as Christ-centered and dynamic; the meaning of contemplation according to St. John of the Cross and the critical moments of development (movement from meditation to contemplation; the dark night of sense and spirit). We will also briefly examine and discuss some of the contemporary prayer methods people practice: Ignatian meditation, the Jesus prayer, Centering prayer, and Christian meditation as taught by John Main, OSB. We will conclude the course with a reflection on prayer as a way of being and prayer as transformative, transforming us into apostles – becoming servants of the Church and others as Jesus was. (Interior Castle, Seventh dwelling places, chapter 4).

Essential bibliography

  • Lohfink, G., Prayer Takes Us Home: The Theology and Practice of Christian Prayer, translated by L.M. Maloney, Collegeville, MN 2020.
  • Martin, J., Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone, Broadway, NY 2021.
  • Burrows, R., Essence of Prayer. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006.
  • Bianchi, E., Praying the Word: An Introduction to Lectio Divina, translated by J.W. Zona, Kalamazoo, MI 1998.
  • Alvarez, T., Prayer: Journeying to God with St. Teresa, translated by A. Harriss, Boars Hill, Oxford 2019.
  • Selected texts from the Collected Works of St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross:
  • St. Teresa of Jesus, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Jesus, vol. 1-2, translated by K. Kavanaugh and O. Rodriguez, Washington, DC 20192.
  • St. John of the Cross, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, translated by K. Kavanaugh and O. Rodriguez, Washington, DC 19912.