How Should I Pray?

Q. What set prayers should I be saying during the day? When I need to pray for someone or something, I am useless putting the words together to form a well-constructed prayer. I often resort to having something or many things in my mind to prayer for and end up requesting God’s help with few or no words. Is that good enough, as opposed to a well-constructed or set prayer? Sometimes I find it easier to tag Hail Marys on the end of these requests, which I rely on so much.

Gase Twilrigg

A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:

Prayer is so important a part of Christian life that our Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes an entire section (Part Four) to it. The text says, “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart and mind to God.” (No. 2559), reminding us prayer is a humble and loving response to the God who first calls us. “The forms of prayer revealed in the … Scriptures remain normative for Christian prayer” (No. 2625), but the words must rise from our hearts.

What words should we use? We can hardly improve on Jesus’ own words in the Our Father, which contains the traditional elements of blessing, intercession and thanksgiving. The Hail Mary unites all Christians in professing faith in the Incarnation and begging Mary to intercede for the world’s salvation.

Eloquence is an admirable, but secondary, consideration in prayer. “The Lord leads all persons by paths and in ways pleasing to him, and each believer responds according to his heart’s resolve and the personal expressions of his prayer” (No. 2699). If we are discouraged by our lack of eloquence, we may draw consolation from St. John Chrysostom, who observed, “Whether or not our prayer is heard depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor of our souls.”