Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I can’t help but wonder

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer. Mostly about form and content.

Being raised Catholic, I was brought up with the recitation format. Many “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys”. A whole lot of the “Acts of Contrition.”

The first time my Baptist cousin said grace and began speaking extemporaneously, I was startled. I remember curiously peeking out at him from my bowed head. I was surprised by the intimacy of praying from the heart instead of reciting someone else’s words.

Today I wonder what weight is given to the choice of our expression, the duration of our request. Does substance matter? Does repetition provide impact or rise above the clutter?

Honestly, this curiosity has come about because typically I pray, as part of my ritual, before I go to sleep. The problem is I usually fall asleep before I finish my prayers. Or my A.D.D. addled brain skips off to a different thought. So I can’t help but question if I’m short changing the people I’m praying for.

Is it enough to ask, “Please watch over So-in-so”? Or do I need to elaborate? Once I make my request, do I need to make it again? And again? Is there power in repetition? Are my own words better than a practiced prayer?

Yes, as I write this I realize I’m over analyzing. I know in my heart it’s the intention that matters. It’s my head that’s whirling with wonder.

The introspection is sincere. I have a curious beast within that is looking for nourishment. Will you share your thoughts and practices?


Tess said...

I grew up in a christian(non-catholic) family but I finish my elementary and high school in a catholic school. I memorize all the prayers; if a teacher would ask me to lead the prayer, I would do it with no hesitation, I respected their beliefs and faith but I don't follow it since I am not a catholic. As far as I can remember, my parents would wake us up to spend devotional time with the whole family before we start the day. I know and learn the Lord in an early age and in a very special way; I love Him and fear Him, I always enjoy talking with Him as if He just sitting beside me, telling Him about my disappointments, my ambitions, my joy, my needs, thanking HIM for the peace, and joy and satisfaction He gives me everyday. I know that God sees the heart, He is after our heart more than anything; He understands, He listens, He provides, He gives wisdom, direction and understanding; He gives hope, joy and peace; and He gave His only son for us. What matters is our heart and our relationship with Him not the name of the denomination.
First time to hear about neti pot. I google it and it looks very helpful, thank you so much. I was diagnose as an acute chronic sinusitis. What do you think about that?

liza said...

I'm a catholic too and I can relate with the recitation format. I'm praying the rosary everyday and you know how many Our Fathers and Hail Marys there are in one mystery! But after reciting all those I utter a prayer, more like talking to Him.

Lola said...

You and I are in perfect sync, Patrizia. even whan it comes to bedtime prayers.

Sometimes I feel like my prayers are a selfish and superstitious litany of void requests. But I've stopped reciting Hail Marys and Our Fathers. On the other hand, sometimes when I walk into a church, tears of emotion well up in my eyes.

"Are my own words better than a practiced prayer?" Yes, I think so. Repetition makes me feel hypocritical. Does that make sense?

This is a wonderful post, you should keep this topic open for wider discussion.

I was raised mildly Catholic. Non-practicing Catholic, as we say here. I was baptized and then left to choose for myself. i took first communion at 25, after a wild night. I'm a believer, but I hardly go to mass. I have an open conversation with God, but not in prayer form. It's a monologue, one in which I know the silent other loves me. I've come to terms with my "sins," convinced that He doesn't consider them such. I have an issue with the Roman Catholic Church. I despise this new Pope. I have walked through the Vatican and seen the gold and riches securely locked behind safe glass. I have developed my own relationship with religion, with the Holy Spirit and with guilt. My prayers are seldom left unanswered.

As I said, this post needs more space! Ciao wonderful woman.

Kathleen said...

Ah, one of my favorite topics. Prayer.

How to answer in this little box. I think it best that I blog about this.

For now, may I suggest a visit to link is a lovely starting place:

My prayer life has taken quite a journey from earnest to angry to surrender. As a lovely nun once told me, prayer is a form of selfcare. "It's good to ask for what you need or want. But then you must learn to let go of the outcome."

Truer words never spoken. And very little has brought me more grace following learning to do just that.

But I'll take your question as a promt for my next blog.

Thank you for asking. I'll keep you in my prayers, lovely seeker Pat.

Delwyn said...

Hello Pat!

Well of course we know that prayer doesn't work because the Muslims and the Jews have both been praying hard for thousands of years and then there's the Hindus and the Buddhists and the poor catholics in Italy who died right before the resurrection.

Prayer doesn't work because it is asking for things that are already a given. God is not biased or partial, God's grace and bounty flows to everyone regardless of their race, creed, or prayer format.

What does work is our intention to be still and LISTEN to the still small voice within and our intent to BE GRATEFUL and DO GOOD.

My friend Dan at has a daily gratitude blog which is a lovely way to count your blessings daily and remind ourselves of the abundance that we already have.

So in answer to your question Pat no amount of supplication will ever get anywhere but what will work is our coming to God, (in whatever way we understand that concept to be) and being mindful, meditating and following a path of kindness.

Do whatever it is that works for you. Ritual works for many, repetition of payer or prose, an object to focus on, music, all are only the means to take you to the still place within - which is the kingdom of heaven...

Angela said...

Dear Paisan, is that the right Italian word? Thank you for stopping at my blog, so I get to know you!
I am a Protestant (in many ways), and I have my problems with the Catholic rituals - though I imagine they give you a sort of safe feeling. But I am with Luther who says we can talk with our personal God and need no priest. My favourite quote from the Bible is the proverb 3, 5 and 6: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."

Anonymous said...

Thank you for stopping by.

Interesting post, and very honest. For me, prayer is a constant communion with God; like the connection I have with my wife who seems to be always near me even when we are apart. Prayer, for me, is a longing to be near my Father...sometimes silent; more listening then speaking. I ask for His guidance, His conviction, and His comfort - and listen for His response...waiting until He answers. (Except when I grow impatient and act on my own accord and that never turns out well.)

lakeviewer said...

Hi. Thanks for stopping by my blog, another paesana. Do you speak any Italian? You could practice with Lola and with me also, though English has become my stronger mode. I still pray, reflect upon my life and ask for guidance. We have all evolved in some ways in the understanding of divine intervention and our role in the universe. I agree with Delwin, but I still get emotional when I enter a church.

Leah J. Utas said...

I often fall asleep going through my prayer cycle if I do it before I get out of bed in the morning. It doesn't work as well for that at night though it does set me off on a series of wanders.
Repetition is a good place to start to get into the praying frame of mind,. After that, I say it's best to design your own and to always mention how grateful you are for what you have. I have the best results when I acknowledge what I have.

Pyzahn said...

Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate the wide range of beliefs. I think how we continue to grow is to listen and learn from others, then take what resonates for us and incorporate it into our lives.

To be clear, while I was raised Catholic, I do not practice Catholicism. I think of myself as a highly spiritual person, but I do not embrace any organized religion.

I believe our relationship with God is very personal. I don't think she differentiates by creed but rather by deed.

Thanks again. I'm visualizing peace and goodwill for us all. Join me?

Anonymous said...

Great topic today, and I enjoyed your post and thoughts on it.

It is the intent, what's in the heart of the praying person more than the actual words. THE WORD is not contained in any language or script or set of words. A "set" prayer recited with sincerity can have tremendous meaning and power, or, if said lifelessly out of habit, it can mean and accomplish nothing. Same for intimate or intercessory prayer. If done with the true Love of Christ, it is of great value. If done ostentatiously, or out of pride or ego, or any other false motive, or coming from a heart that truly cares not nor believes not, it is useless dung.

Siobhán said...

Trust yourself.
Love the old pictures.

distracted by shiny objects said...

Very interesting post and wonderfully thoughtful comments. I also fall asleep during nightly prayers, and agree also that it's the intention that is heard.
Very nice writing, I'm so glad to have bumped into you.

Cynnie said...

I was raised baptist..but i converted to catholic when i was in my 30's..
i LOVE being catholic ..l o v e it..
but i mix it up with the prayer..
I love the power of saying a prayer that millions of people have recited in one form or other for 2000 years ( blah blah latin blah blah Vatican 2 ..whatever ..)
but i also have a running dialog with god pretty much all day..
he likes me ..he likes when i stay in touch :)

Bruce said...

I have already given a fair amount of attention to this whole subject of the universe and our place within it on a previous to save space, I will just post the link (I am a lazy SOB, I know)

caribou32 said...

i grew up the hearing heartfelt and even poetic prayers from my father (a poet) and thought they were beautiful (and sometimes unnecessarily lengthy).

the first time i heard a recited prayer besides 'the lord's prayer' i thought it was incredible-something in which every sentence had layers of meaning, some unkown and mystical to even the reciter/s, a prayer that had been used for hundreds even thousands of years because it was just that well-worded.

i was told by a protestant-turned-orthodox that in memorizing prayers she actually came to speak those prayers in times of frustration when before she would have cursed, that speaking a prayer stimulated her mind to thought rather than instant damnation for whatever person or object was out of place.

as someone who didn't grow up with that sort of prayer it is amazing to think about each line poetically and what's actually being said. so much to discover, it seems many people who grow up with recited prayers have been forced to become callous to the deeper meanings implied.

though there's so much more could be said, i really have to go to work, the secret wheelchair word is ingle...


SpookyRach said...

I'm late to this party, but thought I'd throw in two cents worth anyway. I am a former Baptist minter's daughter (he's now Methodist. And still a minister. And I'm still his daughter.) and my husband is a sort-of Catholic. We had an argument over this very issue at a restaurant after church this morning. Nothing was decided either way. :)

However, last week, we were challenged in church to try a practice from our more contemplative past. The exercise I tried might work well for you too. It was to write a prayer. I've never written my own prayer before, but it was an exercise that felt right to me. I plan to write a prayer once a week and then pray and re-pray it throughout the week.

Since you are a writer too, thought it might be meaningful to you.