Showing posts with label spontaneous vs. formal prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spontaneous vs. formal prayer. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Public Prayer/Personal Prayer: No Conflict, says the Church

Another in our series of excepts from the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours. This bit is from Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution which introduces the General Instruction.

It looks like Pope Paul wanted to help priests and religious  to stop looking at the Divine Office as "chore" to be gotten through before they could  go on to personal, private devotions. Rather, the Office could: a. be both "public" and "personal" at the same time, and b. give them plenty of nourishment and wisdom that would in turn inform and expand the rest of their spiritual practices. In addition, he explains why the Office helps all Catholics, laity included, by giving our lives a framework to support everything else that we do in the service of God.

"Because the life of Christ in his mystical body also perfects and elevates for each member of the faithful his own personal life, any conflict between the prayer of the Church and personal prayer must be entirely rejected, and the relationship between them strengthened and enlarged. Mental prayer should draw unlimited nourishment from readings, psalms, and the other parts of the Liturgy of the Hours. The recitation of the Office should be adapted, as far as possible, to the needs of living and personal prayer...If the prayer of the Divine Office becomes genuine personal prayer, the relation between the liturgy and the whole Christian life also becomes clearer. The whole life of the faithful, hour by hour during day and night, is a kind of leitourgia or public service, in which the faithful give themselves over to the ministry of love toward God and men, identifying themselves with the action of Christ, who by his life and self-offering sanctified the life of all mankind.

The Liturgy of the Hours clearly expresses and effectively strengthens this most profound truth, embodied in the Christian life.

For this reason the Hours are recommended to all Christ's faithful members, including those who are not bound by law to their recitation."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Praying two prayers at the same time

This morning, I began my usual Morning prayer from the Litugy of the Hours, making the sign of the cross while saying the opening verse: "O God Come to my assistance/Lord, make haste to help me.”
Later on into the prayer, I again made the sign of the cross while praying “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, he has come to his people and set them free...” in the canticle of Zechariah. I did this once more at the conclusion, while saying, “May the Lord bless us, protect us from every evil, and bring us to everlasting life.”

It struck me—what an interesting thing it is to make the sign of the cross while saying other words than the usual invocation of the Trinity. I was expressing two different prayer-thoughts at once, by using two different language formats: spoken English and sacred sign language. Put another way, my mind prayed one thing (“God come to my assistance”) while my body prayed another (invoking the blessed Trinity.)

Come to think of it, there are many ways we pray with our bodies, whether or not our minds and lips are praying at the same time. The simple act of kneeling down is itself a prayer—an act of humility before God. Likewise genuflecting, kissing a crucifix or other holy object, taking holy water, folding or raising one's hands in prayer. All these gestures, and many others, are themselves acts of prayer, even before a single word crosses our lips or even our minds.

A protestant teacher of mine once expressed befuddlement with her experience attending mass: “all the up-rising, down-sitting, kneel here, bow there—I just couldn't keep up with it. It was like an exercise class.” Wish I could go back in time to high school, and explain to her, “Yes, that's the whole idea. We pray with our bodies, minds, and souls."

It's just another aspect of the Church being so very Sacramental. Things--including our arms, hands, legs--are vehicles through which God receives our praise and sends His grace.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

So Elegant

The whole spontaneous vs. recited prayers argument is not really an "either/ or' argument. It seems to me that if you recite  the psalms until they are memorized, then they eventually become part of your spontaneous prayer: Those phrases phrases spring to your lips when you are away from the prayerbook. The net effect is that your personal prayer language becomes lovelier. Instead of "Lord, please help me keep my big mouth shut so I will stay out of trouble", becomes:

Set, O Lord,  a guard over my mouth;
keep a watch at the door of my lips.(psalm  141)

In other words, using formal prayers will inform or expand your spontaneous prayer life. Don't you agree?