Father Sebastian’s latest book focuses on roots of our beloved prayers

By David Tisdale
GREENVILLE – To help Catholics and other Christians keep prayer from becoming mere routine, Father Sebastian Myladiyil, SVD offers in his latest book in invitation to how to better understand and contemplate our devotions to the Holy Trinity through his deep examination of their genesis.

Father Sebastian recently published Why We Pray What We Pray, described as a “spiritual journey of prayer, silence and aspiration” in which he examines the prayers Christians hold dear and recite in times of worship, gratitude, contrition, and in despair. He looks closely at the historical and theological foundations and significations of The Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, The Way of the Cross, The Rosary, the Mass, Lectio Divina among others, further clarifying the concepts in which they are grounded so they become even more relatable and meaningful to us.

“The more I understand the words, actions, emotions, and feelings that are attached to a particular prayer, the better it helps me to engage in it,” Father Sebastian said of Why We Pray What We Pray. “That is why I have tried to explain prayer here by looking at its meaning, historical origins, scriptural basis, and theological significance. I hope readers find these beneficial as well and come to engage in prayer in an intentional manner. “

Father Sebastian Myladiyil, SVD stands with his latest book – Why We Pray What We Pray. The book is available on Amazon or for a personalized copy, contact Father Sebastian at sebymy@hotmail.com. (Photo courtesy of Gulf Pine Catholic)

Why We Pray What We Pray invites readers to look at the whole of the narrative of The Word through the many prayers connecting us to it. In an excerpt from the book, referencing the Hail Mary, Father Sebastian writes:
“In our prayer, we make these beautiful words of Elizabeth our own. Today, we recognize Mary as the most blessed woman in history due to her faithful acceptance of God’s plan and her willingness to fulfill it perfectly.” The phrase emphasizes the lessons we can learn from Mary’s life and her response to God’s plan. It teaches us the value of faithful acceptance of God’s purpose, humility, and obedience. We are encouraged to recognize and celebrate the blessings in the lives of others, trust in God’s perfect timing, and utilize the power of prayer to seek spiritual support and guidance. In essence, Mary’s story inspires us to align our lives with God’s will, embrace His plan, and appreciate the blessings in our own lives and in the lives of those around us.”

In discussing the inspirations for his latest book, Father Sebastian says he values prayer and its power, and hopes what he is written also inspires more meditative and reflective moments. “It [prayer] is the force that guides and strengthens my life,” Father Sebastian explained. “It helps me to deepen my relationship with my God as I see those moments as special times between me and the One I love – God. It is also the glue that holds life together when things seem difficult and challenging.

“I truly experience the power of prayer when I intentionally engage in it and actively lead or participate in it. For the words of a prayer to become meaningful and the feelings to become real, I must immerse and involve myself totally in it – my body, soul, mind, and heart.”

Father Sebastian credits first his parents and a family atmosphere he says helped him value the importance of prayer, and later his educational formation in the seminary and daily service as a priest.
“The seminary formation and my life as a priest is centered around prayer and spirituality,” he further noted. “The celebration of the sacraments and other liturgical functions are powerful moments of prayer, and the greatest of such moments is the celebration of the Eucharist – the greatest form of prayer.

“As a priest, I am also blessed to be part of some of the most significant moments in the life of my parishioners as well as others in the community, such as through baptism, Holy Communion, matrimony, anointing of the sick, and funerals. These moments may be joyful or painful, and prayer has a way of enhancing those joyful moments or offering comfort to those experiencing pain and difficulties. In the period after Katrina, there were certainly moments of hope and love in action.”

The practice of deep contemplative, meditative, intentional prayer can, Father Sebastian believes, can utilize one’s heart and mind in ways we may not have previously considered.

“[Prayer] can help in getting in touch with one’s emotions and feelings and see them in the light of the Word of God,” Father Sebastian said. “One is able to get in touch with one’s deepest being when one is removed from the distractions of the world and is able to focus on the source of one’s existence – God.”

In a world marred by violence, war, chaos and social upheaval – events and conditions not new to humankind – prayer is our best defense against these forces, Father Sebastian contends.

“Every age has its own challenges, and when we face them for the first time, they might seem to be the greatest of all,” he said. “We are living in a digital age, and we think they pose certain challenges to faith. But I am sure our ancestors in the early industrial age or scientific age thought those [challenges facing them] to be the greatest challenges as well. I am not minimizing the challenges the modern world is presenting to our faith, but God is still in charge, and everything happens for a reason.”

With that philosophy in mind, Father Sebastian says he firmly believes in the words of the Apostle Paul when he said: ‘All things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8: 28), and, further noting, “When challenges mount, it only helps me to actively seek the source of my strength – God – and the process I use is prayer.”

Father Sebastian is currently serving as pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Greenville; St. Francis Church in Shaw; and Sacred Heart Church in Rosedale. A native of India, he is a member of the Society of the Divine Word (Latin – Societas Verbi Divini, SVD), also known as Divine Word Missionaries, and has been serving the SVD’s U.S. Southern Province since 1999.

He holds master’s degrees in moral theology from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, and in educational leadership and counselling from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. His other works include His Instruments; His Instruments – If God Could Use Them He Can Use Us and Blown Together – The Trials and Miracles of Katrina, along with a translation of His Instruments into Spanish, Sus Instrumentos.

(Reprinted with permission of Gulf Pine Catholic/Diocese of Biloxi)