Most people value prayer but don’t feel they pray enough or pray well. They think they need to have more time and better ways of praying. A common saying on prayer is that “the desire to pray is prayer.“
Many of us have favorite prayers that we recite often. “The Jesus Prayer” is an old formula, popular especially in the Eastern churches: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Of course, Jesus taught his disciples the Our Father when they asked him to teach them to pray. The Hail Mary, often repeated in the rosary, is a cherished prayer of Catholics.
Formula prayers are great, but we can make up our own words according to our needs and desires. For example: “Lord, I need your help in making this decision. Give me your wisdom and grace to make the choice most pleasing to you.” Actually, we don’t need words to pray. We can pray observing nature with the beauty of each season or listening to music which calms and soothes our fears. Tears when a loved one dies can be the only kind of prayer we can muster.
The Book of Psalms, revered by both Jews and Christians, is a treasury of prayer from long ago. Some were composed by King David, but most are anonymous. There are four kinds of psalms: prayers of praise, grief, petition, and thanksgiving. They are prayed publicly by monastics and other religious in a form of chant.
Lectio Divina is another form of prayer used by monastics. It consists of focusing on a word (or group of words) from Scripture and letting it dwell in our hearts for a period of time. We let it take root in our lives and becoming a mantra (sacred word) throughout the day.
Prayer is an essential part of a believer’s life. It expresses our dependence on God and deepens our relationship with God. We might also pray to our favorite saint for special assistance. St. Peregrine is considered the patron saint for persons suffering from cancer, AIDS, or other illness. St. Anthony of Padua is widely known as the patron saint of lost things.
Often we feel like we’re too busy to pray. I think most spiritual guides would tell us that we can pray as we go — driving to work, emptying the trash, cooking dinner, or going to classes. Short prayers are just as good as long prayers. Many of us were taught as children to pray before going to sleep. That’s a good time for all of us, for we never know for certain if we will awake.