A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Keeping It Short and Sweet

Posted on: July 13, 2015

Last year, my son’s Confirmation class had a daylong retreat a few weeks before the service. One group activity involved preparing a grace to say before lunch, the reward for the best-written prayer being the right to be served lunch first. Some of the graces were very thoughtful and creative, and others…well, they were works in progress.

At times I’ve wished that I were more comfortable praying on the spur of the moment, or even that my prayers sounded more polished, but that’s not my gift. And that’s okay.

I read a quote from St. Benedict in the “Celebrate July 2015” feature of the June / July / August Catholic Digest that reminded me praying from the heart is what matters:

Prayer ought to be short and pure, unless it be prolonged by the inspiration of divine grace.

We do see lengthy prayers in the scriptures, such as these:

  • Hannah’s prayer of thanks when she brought her son Samuel to the temple (1 Samuel 2:1-10*);
  • Solomon’s prayer of praise and petition at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:22-53);
  • many of the psalms;
  • the Magnificat (verses 46-56) and the prophecy of Zechariah at the birth of John the Baptist (verses 67-79) in Luke 1; and
  • Jesus’ prayer for the disciples and future believers before his arrest (John 17).

But we often read shorter prayers in the Bible, such as Samson’s plea to the Lord that he be avenged on the Philistines for the loss of his eyesight (Judges 16:28), Elijah’s call for the Lord to send down fire on his offering to show that he is God (1 Kings 18:36-38), and Jesus’ prayer commending his spirit to God (Luke 23:46).

Jesus himself told us that we don’t need to pray long prayers for God to hear us and know what we need:

“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8)

Then he gave us the Our Father to pray—not a long prayer, but a profound one.

When we pray, may we not worry about choosing the right words or phrases but instead pray straight from the heart, knowing that God hears and understands what we need.

(*Scripture references and quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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