What is Prayer?
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” St Therese of Lisieux – CCC 2558
Prayer is a human expression of our attempt to relate to God. Praying is a devotion to and desire to communicate with the mystery that gives meaning to our lives. For Catholics, this mystery is God, revealed to us in the person of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We can engage with this mystery by being open to feeling the presence of God in a joyful moment, sitting quietly alone and ‘spending time’ with God in daily prayer or joining with others to pray. Our day to day activities, if done with God in mind and with good intentions, are prayer. There are different styles of prayer.
Through prayer, we acknowledge God’s power and goodness along with our own need and dependence. Prayer is an essential ingredient in all our efforts for a better world and for our own inner peace.
Prayer can help us make sense of our lived experiences which may be overwhelming in positive or negative ways. Reflecting in prayer empowers us to grow in confidence that whatever life may bring we are loved unconditionally by our Creator.
For Catholics, praying together clarifies our relationship with one another within the bigger context of our relationship with God. By gathering together to pray ‘in the name of Jesus’ we are part of ‘the body of Christ’. This links us to others beyond those physically assembled in the one place.
Why should we pray?
People pray for all sorts of reasons. Some pray to comfort themselves in troubling times and to acknowledge there is a spiritual dimension to life. But Christians pray for very specific reasons.
To be a Christian is to believe God invited you into a personal relationship with him and to accept that invitation.
Saying that you can experience being a Christian in the way God intended without learning to pray is like saying you can be happily married or have a deep friendship without regular communication.
But maybe the question is not why should Christians pray, but why should they want to?
Here are four great reasons why you might choose to pray:
- You want to tell God how much you love him and why.
- You need to say “I’m sorry” for specific actions or attitudes.
- You want to thank God.
- You want to bring a concern about your life or someone in your life to God and invite him to help.
If you have never really prayed before and you want to know what to say, these four reasons for prayer also provide a good template to start with. And if that’s you, we want to share about more of the essentials before we go any further.
How do we pray?
You can bow, kneel, stand or walk around when you pray. God will hear you whatever you do, so choose a position that helps you focus.
Kneeling, or bowing your head, is a great way to focus your body and your mind on God. It’s also a way to show how much you respect God.
What should I say?
Start by addressing God directly in a way that acknowledges the uniqueness of who he is.
People will say things like, “Father God,” “Heavenly Father” or “Almighty God.” How you choose to address him will remind you, and anyone you might be praying with, about who you are talking to and what he represents in your life.
Do I pray to God the Father, Jesus or the Holy Spirit?
This is completely up to you. Choose one or try praying to each member of the Trinity at different times, because they are all listening to you. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God living within you. So you can address him directly with confidence that he is as close as he can be.
Should I pray out loud?
Depending on how comfortable you feel or what kind of situation you are in, you will choose whether to pray out loud or silently. Over time, you will likely grow in your confidence praying out loud.
If you are praying for someone who is physically present with you, it might encourage them to hear your faith expressed through your prayers. But if you find praying silently allows you to focus more on God than on someone you might be praying with, go for it.
The one time most of us need to stop talking is when we are trying to listen to God. You will find it harder to hear what he is saying if you are doing all the talking.
When and where do I pray?
Anytime and anywhere can work, but it’s good to find a distraction-free time and place if possible. God deserves your focused attention, and you might find it harder to listen to him in a busy place.
Some people create a space in their homes for this purpose, like a prayer closet. Others will choose a favorite park to take time out with God, or even a coffee shop.
How do I end a prayer?
A common way to end a prayer is by saying something like, “In the name of Jesus, Amen.”
This common conclusion is a reminder of who this God is.
Whatever you choose to say can also act as a reminder that you believe God has heard your prayers and that you trust him to know how best to answer them.
If you’re the kind of person who starts talking to God as you go about your day, you don’t need to wrap up every communication with a formal ending for God to take you seriously. God is a Father who loves his children to talk to him as much as possible.
Sign of the Cross
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
The Rosary is the story of the New Testament. Through the beads, we follow the life of Mary and Jesus. It takes us on the life journey of Jesus, from the moment the Holy Spirit came down on Mary, through his childhood, his cruel death on the cross, the joy of Easter when he rose from the dead, to the day he ascended to Heaven in glory.
Divided into the Mysteries of the Rosary, the 20 meditations are traditionally grouped into themed sets known as the Joyful (or Joyous) Mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries.
The Joyful Mysteries
- The Annunciation: The Archangel Gabriel “announces” to Mary that she shall conceive the Son of God.
- The Visitation: Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist.
- The Nativity: Jesus is born.
- The Presentation: Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the Temple, where they meet Simeon.
- Finding of the child Jesus in the Temple: After losing him, Mary and Joseph find young Jesus teaching the Rabbis in the Temple.
The Luminous Mysteries
- Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan: The voice of the Father declares Jesus the beloved Son.
- The Wedding at Cana: Christ changes water into wine, his first public miracle.
- The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God: Jesus calls to conversion (cf. Mk 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him.
- The Transfiguration: The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ.
- The Institution of the Eucharist: Jesus offers the first Mass at the Last Supper with his apostles, establishing the sacramental foundation for all Christian living.
The Sorrowful Mysteries
- The Agony in the Garden: Jesus sweats water and blood while praying the night before his passion.
- The Scourging at the Pillar: Pilate has Jesus whipped.
- The Crowning with Thorns: Roman soldiers crown Jesus’ head with thorns.
- The Carrying of the Cross: Jesus meets his mother and falls three times on the way up Calvary.
- The Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies before his mother and his apostle John.
The Glorious Mysteries
- The Resurrection: Jesus rises from the dead.
- The Ascension: Jesus leaves the Apostles and bodily ascends to heaven.
- The Descent of the Holy Spirit: The Apostles receive the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire in the upper room with Mary.
- The Assumption: Mary is taken bodily – assumed – into heaven by God at the end of her life here on earth.
- The Coronation: Mary is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth
How to pray the Rosary
This prayer has been around for many centuries. It has been prayed by the most learned, as well as by people who could not read or write. It can be prayed by children, by the very old, and everyone in between. It can be prayed when we feel close to God, but also when we feel far away from faith.
The Order of Prayers
Rosary beads are used to pray the Rosary and are made up of a cross or crucifix, a medal, large beads and small beads.
- On the crucifix, make the sign of the cross and then pray the Apostles’ Creed, which is a summary of all the things we believe as Catholics.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
- On the next large bead, pray the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus taught us.Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
- On the following three small beads, pray three Hail Marys.Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
- On the chain, pray the Glory Be.Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
- On the large bead, meditate on the first mystery and pray the Our Father.
- On the ten beads after that, pray a Hail Mary on each bead; on the chain, pray a Glory Be and the Fatima Prayer:O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.
- Repeat Steps 5 and 6 four more times to finish the next four decades
- At the end of your Rosary, you are back to the medal where you say the Hail Holy Queen:Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us; and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.
- End with the concluding prayer:O God, whose only-begotten Son, by his life, death, and resurrection has purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation; grant we beseech thee, that meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
V. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit. Hail Mary…
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Let it be done unto me according to thy word. Hail Mary…
V. And the Word was made flesh
R. And dwelt among us. Hail Mary…
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ
Let us pray: Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts;
that, we to whom the incarnation of Christ, thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by his passion and cross, be brought to the glory of his resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord.
O Jesus, through the most pure heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your divine heart.
Prayer to our Guardian Angel
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide.
Prayer for Family
Praying for our family, spouse or children can be as simple as:
I ask the Lord to give you strength and peace today.
Family prayer while gathered for a meal
Lord, we thank you for the blessings of this day and for this time together as family.
We thank you for this wonderful meal and for this time we share.
Help us to remember those who have so much less than we do.
Bless us as a family.
Help us to grow in love and care for each other.
We ask you to comfort and give strength and peace
to those who are sick or struggling in any way.
Grace before meals
Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts, which we are about to receive from your bounty, through Christ our Lord.
Grace after meals
We give you thanks, O Almighty God, for all your benefits who lives and reigns, world without end.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds, hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from you.
From the evil enemy, defend me.
In the hour of my death, call me,
and bid me to come to you .
That with your saints I may praise you
for ever and ever.
Memorare of St Bernard
Remember, O most loving Virgin Mary, that never was it known in any age,
that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was abandoned.
Inspired with this confidence, we turn to thee, O Virgin of virgins, our Mother.
To thee we come, before thee we stand, sinful and sorrowful.
Do not, O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise my prayers,
but graciously hear and answer them .
Come, Holy Spirit
Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. And you will renew the face of the earth.
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations, Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Act of Faith
O my God, I firmly believe all the truths that the Holy Catholic Church believes and teaches. I believe these truths, O Lord, because you have revealed them to her; and in this faith I am resolved to live and die.
Act of Hope
O my God, relying on your promises, I hope that, through the infinite merits of Jesus Christ, You will grant me pardon of my sins, and the graces necessary to serve you in this life and to obtain eternal happiness in the next.
Act of Love
O my God, I love You with my whole heart and above all things, because you are infinitely good and perfect; and I love my neighbour as myself for love of you. Grant that I may love you more and more in this life, and in the next for all eternity.
Act of Contrition
O my God, I am sorry that I have sinned against you, because you are so good, and by the help of your grace, I will not sin again.
Prayer for Serenity
O God, give me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
The Regina Caeli
Rejoice, O Queen of Heaven, Alleluia!
For he whom thou didst merit to bear, Alleluia!
Has risen as he said, Alleluia!
Pray for us to God, Alleluia!
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, Alleluia!
R. For the Lord has risen indeed, Alleluia!
Let us pray
O God, who hast given joy to the whole world
through the Resurrection of thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ;
grant that through the prayers of his Virgin Mother Mary,
we may obtain the joys of everlasting life.
Through the same Christ, our Lord.
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of mercy!
Hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope!
To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate, your eyes of mercy towards us
and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Peace Prayer of St Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy;
Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
St Mary Mackillop
Holy God, source of all goodness, you show us in Mary Mackillop
a woman of faith who lived by the power of the Cross.
Teach us to embrace what she pioneered: new ways of living the Gospel
that respect and defend the human dignity of all in our land.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Word and Faith Groups
A number of parishes have established Word and Faith Groups, where a small number of people gather together to read and reflect on the readings for the following Sunday.
It is a valuable tool for those who are reading at Mass on the following Sunday, or for those who wish to develop a deeper understanding of the Scriptures, as you become more aware of the message and what God is saying to each of us in the readings.
It does not have to depend on the availability of the priest.
The format is simple
- Find a suitable meeting space, organise to meet at the same time each week, and start on time. The group coordinator provides a printed copy of the reading.
- When the group has gathered, recall that Jesus is already present as we gather in God’s name and will be present in a new way to all, when the Scriptures are read. Invite all to a minute of silent prayer, as they open their hearts to God and pray for one another.
- One of the participants will read the Gospel, followed by a brief time of silent reflection.
- Invite people to repeat a phrase or a word in the reading that spoke to them.
- The same or another person reads the Gospel again.
- Invite people to share what the reading, or part of it, said to them. Remember – we are not asking for general commentary or explanation, but a personal response.
- If there is time, repeat this process with the first reading, explaining that it has been chosen to echo themes in the Gospel.
- If there is time, repeat this process with the second reading for the day.
- Close the meeting with the ‘Our Father’.
You will find that you will come to know and love the Scriptures more.
For more information about Word and Faith Groups, or to request help in the setting up of a group in your parish, please contact the Mission and Renewal Director on firstname.lastname@example.org or ph: (02) 6334 6400.
The daily readings can be found at www.universalis.com