Prayer is the perhaps the single thing which, as Christians, ought to characterise us. It is the foundation of all else that follows and it is the living expression of that faith which we profess – we cannot reasonably think of ourselves as Christians if we do not, in some way or other, pray regularly.
In this respect, we are somewhat spoiled for choice. We have the three broad types of prayer – vocal, meditative and contemplative – and we have numerous different forms which our prayer can take. Different forms of prayer will have a particular resonance for different people – and so what might be my preferred form, can be quite different to yours.
Greatest amongst all the forms of prayer is, naturally, the Mass itself, which is the greatest possible prayer. Here, we take part in the renewal and re-presentation of the death and resurrection of Christ, offering this to the Eternal Father and praising Him all the while for His grace and mercy and blessings. We are offering Christ to the Father, and there is nothing that can surpass this offering.
Beyond the Mass, we are called to develop a life of personal prayer – and wherever possible, communal prayer, since our faith is communal to an even greater extent than it is private. We are a community of believers and worshippers.
For the particular forms of our personal prayer, there is a great treasury of wealth available to us.
We have the Scriptures themselves – particularly the Gospels, which detail the life and work of the Lord; and the Psalms, which are the very prayers which He prayed during His earthly life and ministry. And flowing out of the Scriptures, we have the great prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours – which is heavily focussed on the Scriptures; this prayer is open to every one of us and indeed is recommended to every one of by the Church herself. One of the beauties of this form of prayer is that is structured, clear, and offers us a well-used and well-laid out way to pray, one the Church has been using for many centuries.
Another simple and beautifully structured form of prayer is that of the Rosary – and this, too, has been in use now for many centuries. Like the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary is greatly focussed on the Scriptures – indeed, the Rosary was initially considered as the ‘Liturgy of the Hours for the laity’ or for those unable to read prayer books, it’s 150 Hail Mary’s taking the place of the 150 Psalms.
Apart from the two magnificent forms of prayer, there are so many others which are available to us and from which we can choose. Indeed, our prayer each day may be nothing more than an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be.
But the crucial point is that we actually pray, no matter the particular form our prayer takes.
As well as giving a living expression to the faith we profess, prayer acknowledges our absolute nothingness and our complete dependence upon the Lord; in the Our Father, for example, we praise God and place our needs before Him, as well as asking forgiveness for the damage we have done – by means of sin – to our relationship with Him. Similarly, in the Hail Mary we recall the central tenets of our faith and ask the help of the One whom the Almighty made Himself dependent upon. And in the Glory Be, we simply praise the triune God in Whom we believe.
There is not one soul upon this earth who does not need to pray and to place themself before the Lord in this way. That includes me and it includes you.