On Prayer

Course Description

Created by Dr. Lawrence Cunningham, a Notre Dame Theology Professor, the aim of this course is to give participants a basic understanding of the place of prayer in the Catholic tradition. The course does not provide a manual or handbook on how to pray, but rather "Prayer in the Christian Life" as a springboard for an exploration of prayer in the Christian tradition by reflecting on questions such as "What is the nature of prayer? What is Christian prayer? What do we learn about prayer from Jesus?" Through readings from Scripture and liturgical texts, how we learn to pray will be explored by considering the personal and communal nature of our prayer, use of Psalms, and Lectio divina. Later units of the course will challenge us to consider what it means to see ourselves as persons of prayer; and what is the relationship between prayer and action, prayer and social justice? Finally, the course will explore the relation of prayer and theology--how does the practice of prayer help us to become people of faith who wish to come to a deeper, more reflective understanding of that faith which we profess?

Course Content

Unit 1: Introduction

  1. The Nature of Prayer
  2. Observations about Prayer
  3. Christian Prayer, Jesus' Example
  4. Readings include: Gospel of Luke, Catechism of the Catholic Church

Unit 2: Learning to Pray

  1. Treasury of Prayers
  2. Public Prayer of the Liturgy
  3. Personal Prayer and Community
  4. Readings include: Eucharistic Prayer II, Liturgy of the Eucharist (General Instruction of the Roman Missal), Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, (Sacrosanctum Concilium)

Unit 3: Prayer in the Scriptures

  1. The Book of Psalms
  2. Sacred Reading
  3. Pastoral Life
  4. Lectio divina

Unit 4: Prayer and Action

  1. Persons of Prayer
  2. Prayer and Social Justice

Unit 5: Christian Prayer

  1. Personal Prayer as Theology
  2. Theology as Seeing
  3. Final Observation

Course Format

  • Created by Notre Dame Theology Professor.
  • Six weeks in duration, with one week for orientation.
  • Typically 15-20 students in each course.
  • Lecture material delivered by streaming video.
  • All lecture text available online in course.
  • Supplemental readings are provided to encourage further exploration of topic, internet links provided for all readings.
  • Written assignments (150-200 words) required.
  • Facilitator moderated chat sessions with students in course.

Required Texts

  • All course materials are available online in the course.

Participation Requirements

  • View or read the lecture for each unit.
  • Read assigned texts; keep notes, questions, and comments for class discussion.
  • Participate in the class discussion using the Forums area: post at least 2 comments, questions, or responses per unit.
  • Write 150-200 words in response to the assignment in each unit.
  • Participate in at least 3 scheduled chat sessions throughout the course.
  • Complete the course evaluation.

Time Expectations

4 to 6 hours per week, depending on your learning style and schedule.

Course Certificate

A certificate of completion awarding 25 contact hours will be sent upon completion of all course requirements.

Meet the Developer

Dr. Lawrence Cunningham

Dr. Lawrence Cunningham

Dr. Cunningham's scholarly interests are in the areas of systematic theology and culture, Christian spirituality, and the history of Christian spirituality. His most recent book is Thomas Merton and the Monastic Vision(1999). He has edited or written sixteen other books. He is also co-editor of the academic monograph series "Studies in Theology and Spirituality" and serves as an associate editor for a number of scholarly journals. The author of over fifty articles in peer reviewed or solicited journals and books, he has also written over two hundred articles for pastoral and popular outlets. He has won three Catholic Press Association awards for religious writing (1987, 1999, and 2000). The religion book notes columnist forCommonweal for over ten years, he is also an award winning teacher at Notre Dame: the Fenlon Award from Sorin College (1989) and a Kaneb award in 1999. A frequent visiting professor both here and abroad, Dr. Cunningham is currently at work on a new book on the theological meaning of saints. He is also finishing a study of Saint Francis of Assisi and is compiling an anthology of Cardinal Newman's spiritual writings.

B.A., Saint Bernard's College Seminary, 1957; S.T.L., Gregorian University (Rome), 1961; M.A., Florida State University, 1963; Ph.D., Florida State University, 1969