I tend to think of myself as a praying person, but lately I’ve been wondering how well I pray.
There’s a difference, my non-Catholic friends tell me, between praying and praying.
Too often, Catholics are accused of reeling off mindless prayers. The Rosary, for example, involves recitation of the same group of prayers, over and over in a methodical pattern.
Silently praying the beads or even reciting them aloud in church causes my mind to wander. Something about the almost sing-song chants, the familiarity of the words, and before I know it, I’ve “lost” whole decades!
Not that I don’t love the Rosary. I do.
But “rote” prayers don’t make up my entire prayer spectrum.
Prayer — the kind where you read a portion of Scripture or a devotional and allow its message to slowly sink in and permeate your being — well, somehow that seems a “higher” form of praying. After all, many times it leaves you rejoicing in God’s goodness, your heart singing or leaping with gratitude and peace, and often what you’ve read seems to address your particular needs right then.
So which prayer is more pleasing to God? Who can say?
Who also can say when is the best time to pray?
I’ve known people who set their alarms early so they can have an hour or so prayer-time before starting their day. Others do their praying in the evening, right before bedtime.
For me, most of the day is a prayer. That probably sounds odd, but I realized a long time ago that I’m unable to do anything good, anything of meaning, by myself, so I pray.
Didn’t St. Paul advise us to pray unceasingly?
But when does “unceasingly” become remote, mechanical, overkill?
Part of me wonders whether God doesn’t tire of non-stop prayers, whether He doesn’t want to say (as I occasionally did when my son was little), “Enough for now. Let my ears rest.”
Jesus’ friends faced a similar dilemma. They begged Him to teach them to pray, so He gave them the Lord’s Prayer.
What a wonderful pattern for prayer in general — beginning with praise, acknowledging God’s Will, making our request for this day’s bread, and asking forgiveness for our failings!
Perhaps all kinds of prayer are acceptable in God’s eyes. The little, quick prayers; the long, deep prayers; the recited prayers, the spontaneous, “made-up” prayers.
In the end, I think, it’s not the kind of prayers or the amount or the time of day. It’s that we pray, and pray often.
What do you think?