How to Pray

There are many forms of prayer; meditation, praying with your own words, using prayers that have been written and passed on, reading scripture, and so forth. Prayer is communicating with God. Thanking Him and praising His name for the wonders He has done, asking Hid forgiveness for the times we have failed, and imploring His assistance in times of trouble. While there is no right or wrong way to pray, there is sometimes a debate over how to pray the right way. Some people feel that reciting a memorized prayer isn’t as sincere. I believe that the best way to pray is the one that connects you to God the most. It may not be the same for everyone. For me, I like to pray in many ways.

I love to pray through memorized prayers such as the Our Father, Hail Mary, Prayer to the Holy Spirit, and so forth. Some might say that by simply reciting prayers, it is not from my heart. That could not be further from the truth! The reason I love these prayers and the many many more I did not list is because, quite honestly, sometimes my words do not seem enough. I cannot always come up with what I want to say. So I rely on these prayers, tried and true by the Saints before me and by Christ Himself! In Luk 11:2-4 the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. He responds with the Our Father. In Luke we hear the angel Gabriel say to Mary, “Hail, favored one, the Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28) This is the beginning of the Hail Mary. In Luke 1:42 and 43 we read of Elizabeth’s words to Mary, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” These prayers come right from the Bible. How can I expect to speak as eloquently as Jesus Himself? Or how can I come up with better words to implore Mary’s intercession than those of the angel Gabriel and Saint Elizabeth?

When we practice anything in our lives, there are certain steps and procedures we follow. To practice as an athlete may mean a specific regimen of workouts, specific exercises, even a particular diet. If learning to dance, there are certain steps, positions, stretches that you must learn. But to follow only these would not allow you to be the best you can be. You have to do some work on your own. On the opposite side, if I only danced to the music without any training, or if I did not bother with specific training as an athlete and followed my own schedule, I would not be the best I could be either.

To truly practice our faith we need a mixture of prayer. For me, those prayers I have had memorized from my youth are like the basic stretches and workouts I need to practice my faith. I pray these lovely prayers as a sort of backbone for my prayer life. Then I add in my own “workouts.” My own way of moving to the music as I speak the humble and sometimes scattered thoughts in my head.

Each person may have a different form of prayer that connects them to the Father more deeply and that is ok! I pray through these memorized prayers, through mediation, through the words of my own heart, through walking silently in nature, through painting, through singing. What other forms of prayer do you use to talk with the Lord?

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3 thoughts on “How to Pray

  1. reinkat April 30, 2013 at 11:44 pm Reply

    I have always enjoyed praying by reading the psalms, slowly and meditatively. My particular favorite seems to be Psalm 4 and it is the only one which I have memorized. I, too, use memorized prayers for much the same reason that you do. I never thought of the training for sports or dancing analogy, but really like it. It is absolutely true.
    I have felt envious almost at times, at some Protestant friends who could burst into the most eloquent spontaneous prayer. I never could do that, am probably not verbal or quick enough to ever do it well. But Jesus doesn’t really care if I am eloquent or not, and I am content with that.

  2. Joseph Richardson May 1, 2013 at 11:54 am Reply

    As a Protestant, I used to look down my nose at “canned prayers,” denigrating people who prayed them as not praying from the heart, not being “real,” or worse, practicing “dead religion.” That’s probably what I would have said of Catholicism if asked during my zealous youth. But now, the composed prayers of the faith are among its greatest gems to me, the precious poetry that glorifies God and gives us the words of truth to pray when so often we don’t have them. In my thinking as a Protestant, prayer could only “real” unless if you felt it — but so often when we’re struggling, when we’re weak, when we most need God, we don’t “feel” it. And the blessed words of so many saints are there to strengthen us and lead us to God, to help us say what we need to say, to confirm us in our faith and guide us into the habit of grace. Scripture itself, and the witness of the Early Church, teaches us to pray the psalms, from David and so many others who understood the struggle that the life of serving God can be, who understood how to worship Him in spirit and truth. Your comparison of composed prayers with exercises or stretches really resonates with me: I’ve often thought, not really vocalized it, of the “forms” and drills we used to practice when I took tae kwon do as a kid, that taught us memorization and form and especially discipline. So much of the Catholic faith, so much of its strength, is in discipline: the practice of the virtues, most of all fortitude, depends so much on our ability to stand strong and stay on the road even when we’re under assault, and the habit of praying those prayers, of taking root in them, of standing on firm and proven words, gives us such a mighty foundation in Him.

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