Not to brag, but I have memorized TONS of prayers. Of course I know the Lord’s Prayer (in English AND Latin, ahem!) Courtesy of my Catholic upbringing, I am also a whiz at “Glory Be” and “Hail Mary” (which I mutter on repeat throughout any driving trip in the dark/rain.) There is another Mary favorite, “Hail Holy Queen,” and the curious “Prayer to St. Jude” which we intoned weekly at St. Jude’s RC Church. Part of it says: “the name of the traitor who delivered thy beloved Master into the hands of His enemies, has caused thee to be forgotten by many. But the church honors and invokes thee universally as the patron of hopeless cases, of things despaired of…” Never could figure out whether that meant Judas had been canonized, or if we were praying to a totally different guy with the same name. Oh well, a prayer is a prayer, right?
As an adult that I began to think of prayer in simpler, more direct terms: just plain talking to God. Not that I talked to God all that much, sad to say—at least not when things were going well. It was when the chips were really down that I would finally pour out my heart, and sometimes I found that comforting. But (many) other times I felt as if I was talking to an imaginary personage that I was asking to fix the broken things in my life. If conditions improved, I would say a quick and breezy “Thanks a bunch, Lord! Catch you later!” and then go back to my own concerns. If things did not get better I would feel angry, even bitter.
In recent years, my attitude towards prayer has evolved a bit more. Some of it has to do with my forays into silent meditation, my attempt to come into God’s presence without making a peep. But a lot changed when I stopped calling prayer talking TO God, and started to think of it as talking WITH God…inviting God into a back-and-forth conversation. Suddenly I felt closer to God, as I would to a dear friend (albeit a friend I sometimes disagreed with).
I haven’t abandoned the rote prayers totally, but more and more I trust that my own words are enough. And sometimes no words at all is fine—I try to keep the connection going as I load the dishwasher, vacuum the carpet, cook dinner. The Celtic tradition
However we perceive prayer, I believe the important thing is to do it. Whether we are repeating ancient words, chatting companionably, or silently changing the sheets, I trust that there is a loving spirit in the universe, that rejoices anytime we reach out to make contact.