Thursday, 22 July 2010

Prayer Meme

James got tagged for a meme, which I liked the sound of. He didn't tag me for it, but as I feel like doing it:

Name your three [...] favourite prayers, and explain why they're your favourites. Then tag five [people] - give them a link, and then go and tell them they have been tagged. Finally, tell the person who tagged you that you've completed the meme... [The Liturgy and the Sacraments are off limits here.] I'm more interested in people's favourite devotional prayers.

Not that these are in order of preference, but first would be the Jesus prayer.

There is no definitive version; it's a sort of continuum starting simply from the Holy Name of Jesus itself to a phrase based on some healing miracles of Jesus and the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector:

Jesus - Lord Jesus, Son of David [or Son of the living God], have mercy on me, a sinner!
(Mt 20:30-34, Mk 10:46-52, Lk 18:35-42, Lk 18:9-14)

This is also a liturgical prayer, but never mind. Consider that the original Greek of the gospels for "Lord, have mercy!" became the the ecclesiastical Greek of the penitential rite: "Kýrie, eléison."

I suppose the main reason that I like this prayer is that it never seems out of place! It's also simple and easy to remember. I understand that some Orthodox Christians actually use it as a form of constant meditation, though that still sounds like a pretty tall order to me. I've found it very helpful in times of temptation.

And consider what's being requested too:

"Lord," they answered, "we want our sight."

"Rabbi, I want to see."

"Lord, I want to see,"

It was Fr. Robert Barron of the Word On Fire podcast (he's American, but don't hold it against him; I suspect he's a convert from evangelicalism - he always begins his homilies with "Friends, ...") who pointed out to me that with this prayer, and consequently in the penitential rite, you're not wallowing in "Catholic" guilt, but simply acknowledging your radical dependence on Jesus to see the world through God's eyes, recognising the extent of your spiritual blindness and asking for the healing that we need in order to be conformed to Christ - that is, to become men, made in the image of God.

Then there's the litany of the saints. It's long (though in fact, like the Jesus prayer, I don't believe there's a definitive version), but the obvious part goes like this:

St. Peter, pray for us.
St. Paul, pray for us.
St. Andrew, pray for us.
St. James, pray for us.
etc.

Looking at it on paper, it probably seems dull as ditchwater, not helped by the fact that there are rather a lot of saints to invoke, if you're in the mood, but I find it a beautiful prayer. Something to experience rather than read - like all prayer then. There's also the fact that, at least in my experience, it is sung rather than recited. The major part of it is a very simple chant that a child could pick up pretty quickly, but it draws you in, it helps you to meditate on the fellowship, witness and intercession of our brothers in Christ.

That's the obvious focus of the prayer, the communion of the saints, and it so happens that this is a doctrine which is dear to me. When I became Catholic, I had the distinct impression of entering a larger world, and the saints have a lot to do with that. How awesome to think of all the heroes of faith who intercede for me in the Church, the body of Christ, the one mediator between God and men! Evangelicals are great at fellowship compared to Catholics - on a practical level they kick our arses frankly, but when I think of the universal -in time and space - Church, of the men and women who are on my side in the struggle against sin, the world and the devil, it doesn't seem to matter so much.

Another part of the reason that I like it so much is because it reminds me of so many particular positive moments, mostly at Sacred Heart, my old parish in Exeter: my reception into the Catholic Church at my first Easter Vigil, a beautiful ordination I went to on my birthday one year with James and Ben, my stint with the awesome Sacred Heart 11 o' clock Choir, my own wedding. It's an important enough prayer for me that I wanted it there on that day, and I wanted to sing it to proclaim my love and commitment to Monica to the whole assembly of God.

Than there's the Angelus. Again, I won't quote the whole thing (though it's not long). Here's what seems to me to be the crux of it:

V. The angel of the Lord announced unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary...

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to your Word.
Hail Mary...

V. And the Word was made flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary...

As a Catholic, I'm a pretty lousy with Marian prayer; to me the rosary seems as though it's designed to confuse me (I repeat a vocal prayer 50 times while trying to meditate on something else?) but this one speaks to me. In case you didn't know, one of the reasons that we Catholics venerate Mary is that she is the disciple of Christ par excellence. This prayer doesn't actually have that much to do with angels, but is has a lot to do with that discipleship; Mary accepts that message and mission of the Lord (no small matter; remember that, if people put two and two together, she was cruising for a stoning?) in her heart and becomes the Mother of God, of the Eternal Word made flesh in her body. Evangelism? She literally brought the Word of God into the world.

It's a short, largely scriptural prayer which reminds us of the importance of discipleship and evangelism. That's good.

I'm blogging this here, but I'll do the tagging part on Facebook.

Update:


An hon mensh for Psalm 27:

One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
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2 comments:

shadowlands said...

good choices!!

Mark said...

I thought so. Better if I prayed them more though.