Over the centuries, the Christian tradition has developed a wide variety of prayer styles and formats designed to help individuals and groups experience and express their relationship to God, both privately and publicly. The following is a list of various opportunities for communal prayer and devotion available in the Cedar Valley.
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Centering Prayer is a form of contemplative prayer shaped by the spirituality of Catholic mystics like John Cassian, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. It is inspired by the wisdom saying of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: "When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret." In recent years, the writing of Cistercian monks like Thomas Merton, Fr. Thomas Keating and Fr. Basil Pennington have introduced centering prayer to a modern audience. The goal of Centering Prayer is to "rest" quietly in God's presence, undistracted by any intentional thoughts, ideas, or feelings. In this form of prayer, the pray-er often chooses a word, a short phrase or symbol to focus the mind and heart -- using the word or symbol to re-focus on quiet listening when other thoughts occur. Some individuals seem more naturally inclined toward contemplative prayer, although many others find that, with practice, it becomes a rich oasis in the midst of a busy life.
Local Opportunities for Centering Prayer
• American Martyrs Retreat House, 2209 N. Union Road, Cedar Falls
Bi-monthly, on the first and third Sunday of the month, 3:30-5:30pm.
Contact: American Martyrs (319-266-3543; email
• Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1301 Kimball Ave., Waterloo.
Weekly on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, 8:30-9:00am.
Contact Westminster at 319-486-3700)
• Nazareth Lutheran Church, University & Main Sts., Cedar Falls
Bi-monthly on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month, 5:00pm. in
Contact Lorene Wellnitz (319-232-4100; email email@example.com)
• 11th-Step Center Prayer Group, 327 E. 4th St., Suite 201, Waterloo.
Weekly on Thursday evenings, 6:00-7:00pm.
• The Retreat House and Contemplative Outreach of Northeast Iowa co-
host various extended centering prayer retreats and training sessions
throughout the year.
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Charismatic Prayer is a type of enthusiastic and expressive (hence "charismatic") prayer inspired by the experience of the first disciples at Pentecost. According to the testimony of the early church, members of the community continued to receive special charisms* of the Spirit for the purpose of building up the community and accomplishing its mission. In later centuries, this aspect of the Spirit's presence was somewhat overshadowed and at times discouraged. It was revived in recent years by Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) which affirmed that in addition to the sacraments and official ministries of the Church, "the Holy Spirit makes holy the people [and] distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank" (Lumen Gentium, #13). Charismatic prayer became popular among American Catholics who associated themselves with the Charismatic Renewal Movement which began in Michigan in the late 1960s.
Related website: www.nsc-chariscenter.org/
A healing Mass gives individuals who are seeking spiritual healing for themselves or for others an opportunity to unite their prayers to those of the broader Christian community. A healing Mass is a normal Mass which has a special focus on God's healing power. For example, the scripture readings, homily or songs may relate to healing or the activity of the Holy Spirit. In addition, there is usually a time of praise and worship before the Mass begins. Often the singing before or during Mass is very lively and people are encouraged to clap their hands or raise their arms in praise. After Mass there may be an opportunity for those who wish to pray with the priest or prayer team for personal healing. Occasionally some people may prophesy or pray in tongues* during this time and others may rest in the Spirit by falling gently to the floor; in no case is anyone ever forced or expected to express their experience of the Spirit in these ways.
When Prayers for Healing Aren't Answered
• The Inter-City Charismatic Prayer Group
Sacred Heart Church, 627 W. Fourth St., Waterloo. (Use side entrance)
Weekly, on Tuesday evenings, 7:30-9:00pm.
Weekly, on Thursday mornings, 8:30-9:30am.
Contact: Sharon Even (319-232-7338)
The Inter-City Charismatic Prayer Group which meets at Sacred Heart Parish was organized in 1972. Its weekly prayer includes a combination of songs of praise and worship; personal witness, praying in tongues* and interpretation, shared Scripture and intercessory prayers*.
In addition to weekly prayer, this group also sponsors Healing Masses at local parishes several times a year.
Eucharistic adoration is one of many devotions* by which Catholics express their belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. During Eucharistic adoration, individuals spend a certain amount of time (customarily an hour) in quiet meditation before the Eucharist which is publicly displayed on the altar. Some adorers use prayers, hymns or sacred reading, but the primary disposition is to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation by which God became human in the person of Jesus Christ. Some observers liken this experience to that of the apostles during the Transfiguration (cf. Luke 9:28-36). Devotion to the Eucharist originated as a way of honoring the bread which was consecrated at Mass and reserved for later distribution to the sick and dying or sent to neighboring communities as a sign of unity. Various Eucharistic devotions developed in the early Middle Ages in response to theological controversies over Jesus' presence in the Eucharist and became more widespread following the Protestant Reformation. The Second Vatican Council emphasized the primacy of the Eucharistic liturgy, which is the source of Christ's sacramental presence on earth; the Council insisted that Eucharistic devotions must flow from and lead to full and active participation in the liturgy itself.
• Columbus High School Chapel, 3231 West Ninth St., Waterloo.
Perpetual Adoration (24 hours a day). For information or to sign up for
a regular adoration time contact 319-233-9128.
• Blessed Sacrament Church, 650 Stephen Ave., Waterloo.
Adoration and benediction* on the first Thursday of the month, following
• St. Edward Church, 1423 Kimball Ave., Waterloo.
Adoration on the third Monday of the month, from 8:00am to 7:00pm.
Benediction* on the third Monday of the month at 7:00pm.
• Queen of Peace Church, 320 Mulberry St., Waterloo.
Adoration and Benediction in Spanish on the first Friday of the month,
• American Martyrs Retreat House, 2209 N. Union Road, Cedar Falls.
Adoration on Tuesday evenings, 6:30-7:30pm
Intercessory prayer is a form of petitionary prayer in which one praysfor a particular need, group or person (oneself or others). It is inspired by the instruction Jesus gave to the disciples: "Ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened to you" (Mt.7:7) and Jesus' own prayer for his disciples and the People of God (John 17:9ff). Petitionary or intercessory prayer is perhaps the most common form of personal prayer; over the years, it has also been a frequent form of common or public prayer. Many contemplative communities of men and women have been formed for the expressed purpose of being intercessors for church authorities, the church at large, the world, or particular causes. In times of natural disasters or public crises such as war, Christians have often gathered together in their local churches to pray for safety, deliverance or peace. The "Prayers of the Faithful" at Mass (sometimes called "the Petitions") are a form of intercessory prayer, as is the Eucharistic Prayer itself.
• I-HOPE Ministries
722 S. Hackett Rd, Waterloo.
Weekly, on Monday evenings, 7:00-9:00pm
Contact: Mike Peters (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
I-HOPE Ministries is a non-denominational community organized to provide opportunities for prayer, healing, charity and evangelization. The community provides a variety of prayer and worship opportunities and a free health clinic. The weekly prayer and worship meeting on Monday evenings is dedicated to intercession* for local needs and for specific social needs such as an end to abortions.
• Prayer for the World
Scallon Hall, Queen of Peace Church, 320 Mulberry St., Waterloo.
Weekly, on Wednesday evenings, 7:00-7:30pm.
(Use the Third Street entrance.)
Contact: Judith Boston (319-232-0572; email JANDQB@aol.com)
The Prayer for the World prayer group at Queen of Peace Parish began in September, 2001 in response to the events of 9/11. It has met weekly since then, first at St. Nicholas Parish in Evansdale, and later at Queen of Peace Parish in Waterloo. The group's prayer reflects Gospel themes such as non-violence, forgiveness, justice, peace, love for enemies and solidarity with the suffering of the poor, neglected and victims of violence. Each prayer session includes readings, a short reflection time, intercessions and closing prayer. The group seeks to create a prayer experience which combines quiet meditation and individual prayer with a sense of communal solidarity and responsibility for the world.
A labyrinth is a pattern or design which originated in ancient times and has been adapted over the years by various religious traditions as a means of prayer and contemplation. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has only one single path which leads to and from the center. In the Christian tradition, labyrinths became popular in the Middle Ages as a symbol of life's spiritual journey and as a substitute for pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Labyrinth prayer fell out of favor in early modern times, but has been revived more recently by various groups trying to popularize the mystical and contemplative traditions of Christian spirituality. The labyrinth is walked slowly in silence; as in other forms of contemplative prayer, the goal is to avoid distracting words and activity so that one can become more aware of God's presence. However, some labyrinth pray-ers use a word or short phrase from Scripture, such as a verse from Psalm 25: "Lord make me know your ways" or "Teach me your paths O Lord." When pray-ers reach the center of the labyrinth, they customarily pause for a few moments and then begin the return journey to the point from which they started (a reminder that prayer always calls us back into the world around us).
Online labyrinth experience:
• St. Luke Episcopal Church in Cedar Falls offers an opportunity for
labyrinth prayer during Advent and Lent. (Contact St. Luke's at 319-277-
8520 or email email@example.com )
• Outdoor labyrinths are available at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality
Center in Hiawatha and Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat Center near
Click here for information about local retreat centers.
Devotion to Mary the Mother of Jesus dates back to the earliest days of the Christian community -- perhaps as far back as the wedding feast at Cana, where Mary intervened with her son on behalf of the hosts who had run out of wine (cf. John 2:1ff). This devotion has included a variety of public and private prayer forms, including novenas*, chaplets*, and the Rosary*. Catholic devotion to Mary and the saints is an extension of our belief in the Incarnation, by which God became human in the person of Jesus Christ, and the Communion of Saints, by which we are united with all who have gone before. Catholics do not worship Mary or the saints, but we value them as role models in this life and intercessors in the next. Over the years, many Catholics relied on their devotion to Mary and the saints when the Church's official worship seemed too impersonal, intellectual or masculine. Modern Marian devotion is often closely associated with appearances (or apparitions*) of the Blessed Virgin, such as those at Guadalupe in Mexico (1531), Lourdes in France (1858), Fatima in Spain (1917), and Medjugorje in Bosnia (1981).
Local Opportunities for Marian Devotion
• Marian Prayer Group
Blessed Sacrament Church, 650 Stephen St., Waterloo.
Weekly, on Thursday evenings, 7:00-8:00pm.
Contact: Stan Tuve (319-236-2336; email: Dolphin35@mchsi.com)
The Marian Prayer Group at Blessed Sacrament Parish was formed in
2000, following a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, and many of its members
have a special devotion to Our Lady of Medjugorje. The group's prayer
consists of various readings, litanies*, Vespers* and hymns, the Divine
Mercy Chaplet*, and the Rosary*. On the first Thursday of the month it
also includes adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
• Ambassadors of Mary
St. Edward Church, 1423 Kimball Ave., Waterloo.
Weekly, on Saturday mornings, 8:00-11:00am.
Contact: Rosilee Beck (319-342-3093).
The Ambassadors meet each Saturday to serve as an honor guard for
the Pilgrim Virgin, a replica of the statue of the Virgin Mary at Fatima in
Portugal. The statue visits a different local home each week where
family members and friends pray the Rosary and Litany of Our Lady
each day. This devotion, which is an alternative for pilgrims who cannot
visit the Fatima shrine in person, originated at Fatima in 1947 and
began in Waterloo in 1975.
• Parish Rosary
St. Edward Church, 1423 Kimball Ave., Waterloo.
Weekly, on Monday evenings, 6:30pm
• Legion of Mary
St. Edward Church, 1423 Kimball Ave., Waterloo.
Weekly, on Tuesday Mornings, 8:00-9:00am. in St. Mary's Room.
Taizé Prayer is a meditative style of prayer developed by an ecumenical community of monks in central France. The community, founded by a layman in 1949, adopted the traditional monastic order of prayer and work, poverty, chastity and obedience. Over the years it has attracted many Catholic members and is today a popular destination for thousands of young pilgrims from around the world. The monks of Taizé developed a distinctive style of meditative prayer which incorporates the frequent repetition of simple contemporary chants with periods of silence, readings from Scripture, prayers of praise and intercession. Taizé prayer is a style of public prayer which combines elements of the Church's traditional Liturgy of the Hours* with elements of contemplative meditation. The Taizé style of prayer is widely practiced today in student centers and retreat houses; it is also growing in popularity in parish churches throughout the world.
(See More About Taize Prayer)
Local Opportunities for Taizé Prayer
• St. Stephen the Witness Catholic Student Center, 1019 W. 23rd Street,
Cedar Falls. Monthly, on the first Tuesday of the month, 9:00pm.
Contact: St. Stephen Catholic Student Center (319-266-9863).
• First Baptist Church of Waterloo, W. 4th & Baltimore Sts, Waterloo.
(Check the schedule)
Contact: First Baptist Church (319-234-1537).
Contemplative Outreach of Northeast Iowa sponsors a 12-Step Outreach service team of persons who are active in 12-Step communities and practice Centering Prayer as their eleventh step. Members of the service team will meet with others in 12-Step communities who are interested in learning how to use Centering Prayer and other contemplative practices for spiritual enrichment and growth.
Local Opportunities for 12-Step Prayer
• An 11th Step Centering Prayer Group meets in Suite 201 of the Lincoln
Park Building, 327 East 4th St. in Waterloo.
Weekly on Thursdays, 6:00-7:00pm.
Contact Julie Rowell at 319-232-6835 (email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Vespers or Evening Prayer is one of six designated times for prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church's official daily prayer. Like the other "Hours" (morning, midmorning, midday, midafternoon and night), it consists of selected prayers and psalms, Scripture and readings from the Church Fathers. The early Christian community adopted this style of prayer from the Jewish custom of praying at designated times each day, and the pattern formed a model for early monastic communities. Daily prayer is still common among Christians, but the habit of using an official prayer, at six specific times during the day, was gradually limited over the years to religious communities and the clergy. Today the "Hours" are prayed in common in communities of monks and nuns; most priests, deacons and vowed religious men and women pray the "Divine Office" or a version of the Liturgy of the Hours privately. The Second Vatican Council urged that the "Hours" be more widely celebrated in parishes as well.
• Access daily prayers and readings online at:
Local Opportunities for Vespers
• Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1301 Kimball Ave., Waterloo.
Weekly on Wednesday evenings, 5:45-6:00pm.
Contact Westminster at 319-486-3700.
Here are resources for individuals or small groups who want to pray the Liturgy of the Hours on their own.
• Liturgy of the Hours. Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1980. (This official
four-volume set can be challenging for the average person. The
following resources are adapted from the official Hours and are easier
for the average lay person to use.)
• Christian Prayer--the Liturgy of the Hours. Catholic Book Publishing
• Shorter Christian Prayer. Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1999.
• A Catholic Book of the Hours and Other Devotions. William G. Storey.
Loyola Press, 2007.
• A Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer--The Psalter of the Liturgy of the
Hours. The Liturgical Press.
• An Everyday Book of the Hours. William G. Storey. Liturgy Training
• Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. United States Conference of
• Benedictine Daily Prayer--A Short Breviary. Maxwell E. Johnson and
the Monks of St. John's Abbey. The Liturgical Press, 2005.
• Praise God with All Creation--A Book of Prayer for Morning and
Evening. Michael Kwatera, OSB. Resource Publications.
• Give Us This Day (monthly journal with morning and evening prayers
from the Hours, plus daily Mass readings). Order from 888-259-8470 or
online at www.giveusthisday.org
• Magnificat (monthly journal with morning and evening prayer from the
Hours, plus daily Mass readings). Order from 866-273-5215 or online at
According to Christian tradition, what became known over the years as a pious devotion called the “Way of the Cross” (or “Stations of the Cross”) originated among early Christians, perhaps with Mary herself. The early community attached spiritual significance to the practice of re-tracing Jesus’ path along the via dolorosa (“way of sorrow”) from Pilate’s court to the site of the crucifixion on Calvary and to the nearby tomb. As the Church expanded into Europe and Africa, participation in this devotion became more and more impractical for the average Christian; after the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land in the twelfth century, it became virtually impossible, even for wealthy Christians. In place of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land itself, Christians began constructing a local Way of the Cross with “stations” inside or outside parish churches, chapels and shrines. The Catholic Church standardized the traditional form of the Stations in the eighteenth century. Today the devotion consists of fourteen "stations," represented by paintings, sculptures or plaques depicting the events of Christ’s Passion. Participants, or a representative of the community, pass from one Station to the next, reciting prayers and meditating on the saving events of Jesus’ passion and death.
In Hispanic culture, the traditional Via Crucis dates back to colonial times, when Spanish and Portuguese missionaries introduced the devotion to the indigenous population. The emphasis on the suffering and death of Jesus in Spanish devotional theology, combined with the social and political condition of the new converts, made the annual Via Crucis a particularly evocative and powerful spiritual experience. The entire community was involved in planning and re-enacting the Lord's passion on Good Friday.
In Rome, a tradition of praying the Stations of the Cross publicly in the Colosseum on Good Friday dates back to the Holy Year of 1750; the custom was revived by Pope Paul VI in 1964 and has been continued by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In 1991, Pope John Paul II observed a slightly different set of stations, now referred to as the "Scriptural Stations."
Local Opportunities for Stations of the Cross
• Stations of the Cross are scheduled during Lent in each Waterloo
Click here for the current Lenten Schedule.
• The Hispanic Community at Queen of Peace Parish customarily
celebrates the traditional Via Crucis on Good Friday.
• Outdoor stations of the cross are available at American Martyrs Retreat
House in Cedar Falls and Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat Center near
Click here for information about local retreat centers.
Apparition -- An extraordinary personal vision or private revelation experienced by an individual or group of persons. The most common apparitions over the years have been of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Officially the Catholic Church accepts the possibility of such miraculous spiritual experiences, but is cautious about endorsing specific claims. It does not consider the messages received in an apparition part of official church teaching and the faithful are free to believe or not believe in the messages received during an apparition.
Benediction -- A short Eucharistic devotion during which the Blessed Sacrament is displayed on the altar, usually in a gold container called amonstrance. There is a short period of special hymns and prayers, after which the presider blesses the assembly with the Blessed Sacrament. The custom arose in the 15th century but was not officially sanctioned by the Church until 1958.
Charism -- A special gift or personal attribute given to individuals by the Holy Spirit for the welfare of the community. These include the gifts of healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. The sudden, intense awareness of these charisms is sometimes referred to as a "baptism in the Holy Spirit" or "being slain in the Spirit."
Chaplet -- A set of beads on a chain or string used in prayer. The practice of using beads during meditation or prayer pre-dates Christianity and is widely used in many traditions. In the Catholic tradition, chaplets are used particularly to invoke the assistance of Jesus, Mary and the saints. The most popular chaplet is the Rosary.
Devotions -- Refers to popular, often unofficial, prayers, rituals and gestures used by individuals or groups to worship God or venerate Mary and the saints. Often devotions express a particular conviction about the object of the devotion: Eucharistic devotions are commonly an expression of Catholic belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist; devotions to Mary and the saints commonly express a confidence in their role as spiritual companions and mediators. Familiar Eucharistic devotions are adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction*, 40 Hours, and processions. Familiar devotions to Mary and the saints include novenas* and various forms of special prayers and rituals. Devotions historically originate in local cultures, and often reflect the unique spiritual and ethnic sensitivities of the local population.
Divine Mercy Chaplet -- A particular chaplet or devotion created to commemorate and invoke God's mercy. This relatively recent devotion was inspired by instructions received by a Polish nun, Sr. Faustina Kowalska (d.1938). For some time the devotion was officially banned, but the ban has since been rescinded by church authorities.
Litany -- A form of prayer which uses a series of short invocations followed by common acclamations. In many cases, both the invocation and the acclamation are frequently repeated; in others, the invocations vary but the acclamation is repeated. Litanies became popular in the Middle Ages when they were used during processions and other public rituals where it was inconvenient to use texts, and among populations which were not literate. The "Lord have mercy" and "Lamb of God" in the Mass are variations of early litanies.
Mindfulness Meditation -- Mindfulness Meditation is a technique common to many religious traditions, including Christianity. It is one means by which an individual learns to be mindful of the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment in a way which leads to an intentional and grace-filled response inspired by God's presence and love. Learn more about Christian Mindfulness here.
Novena -- A nine-day period of prayer, inspired by the nine days the Apostles spent in prayer between the Ascension and Pentecost. In the Middle Ages, novenas were a time of prayerful preparation for major religious feast days. More recently, novenas became of form of devotional prayer addressed to Mary or one of the saints for special intentions or needs. A novena consists of a specific petition, repeated each day, and a variety of other prayers. Novenas may be prayed privately by individuals or publicly in groups.
The Rosary -- Use of the Rosary in devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary probably developed early in the Christian tradition, although its exact origins are uncertain. The Rosary as we know it was introduced by St. Dominic in the early 13th century and popularized by Alan of Rupe in the late 15th century. Some early forms of the Rosary consisted of fifteen "decades" (groups of ten prayers), but the popular Rosary used today consists of five decades; each decade consists of the Lord's Prayer, ten Hail Marys, and the Glory Be. A scriptural event or "mystery" is assigned to each decade. Pray-ers meditate on a different set of mysteries each day.
Tongues or Speaking in Tongues -- One of the gifts or charisms* given to selected individuals by the Holy Spirit. In the account of Pentecost, it refers to the apostles' ability to speak in languages understood by listeners from foreign countries. More commonly in Christian tradition, it refers to the ability to pray in a kind of ecstatic language which cannot be understood except by those who have the charism of interpreting tongues. The late Cardinal Suenens called tongues "the voice of the subconscious rising to God."