Prayer is directing our affections towards God; it is a devout and friendly talk with Him. It is the tranquility of a mind illumined from above.
Prayer is also a plea for temporal goods that are necessary for earthly life. But those who pray ask the Lord with a true Christian spirit to subordinate their own wills to His: only the heavenly Father knows what one really needs in the temporal order.
Finally, prayer is thanksgiving, that is, an acknowledgement of benefits received, and an offering of all our undertakings to God so that our prayer may be a lasting one.
The Lord manifests Himself to those who pause while in peace and humility of heart. If you look into the murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see your own countenance. If you want the face of Christ to appear in your countenance, pause, collect your thoughts in silence, and shut the door of the soul to the noise of exterior things.
(From the Sermons of St. Anthony of Padua)
How to pray a novena
The devotion known as a novena is one of the most beloved forms of popular piety among Roman Catholics the world over. From the Latin meaning “nine at a time,” a novena is nine successive days of prayer, in a row or one day a week for nine weeks, requesting special favors or graces. The Church finds the biblical origin of the novena in the nine days the apostles spent in Jerusalem at the Lord’s command awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:4)
The great strength of the novena is not a superstitious power attached to the number nine or the repetition of a certain number of prayers. Rather, the novena is a spiritual practice which both reflects and cultivates our persistence in prayer. Steadfast devotion in our prayer deepens our faith and draws us closer to God.
Most novenas consist of one prayer that is said daily and a reflection on Scripture. Confession and communion are often incorporated into the nine days. One final note: when praying it is vital that you sincerely speak to God. Over the nine days of a novena you should use your own words and feelings to share with your God your praise and joy as well as your needs and sorrows. As you do this, your heart will be enlightened and your will strengthened, united to the love and will of our Lord.