Prayer: quality vs. quantity?

I am a little confused about prayer…

St. Augustine’s mother, Monica, prayed for her son’s conversion for 16 years before it happened. Does praying for something a lot help? Sometimes I feel like I pray for something once, and I’m done. Then I can move on to other things. But how much should I pray for an intention?

Also, I was praying the Rosary the other day and I started to list a bunch of intentions. But then I felt unfocused. So thereafter I only prayed for one of the intentions, and that made me feel better. Does praying a prayer (or prayers) for one intention have more “weight” than praying the same prayer (or prayers) for a laundry list of intentions?


St. Monica’s persevering prayer for her wayward son certainly helped. The fruit of her prayers gave the world a great saint—St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. Her prayers also brought about the death bed conversion of her pagan husband, Patricius. She never stopped praying for her husband and son, and she lived to witness their conversions.

How much should you pray for an intention? Like St. Monica, God will show you. As you pray, try to relax (Phil 4:6). Tell the Lord how much you love him, and thank him for giving you the gift of faith. Then just pray. Whether you pray for one intention or a laundry list of intentions, our Lord hears you. He looks at your heart, and not at a formula, and he always responds to a prayer offered in faith (CCC 2616).

We all struggle with distractions and weariness in prayer. Prayer is a battle. It’s a battle “against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God” (CCC 2725).

Jesus says "Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will.” Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: "all things are possible to him who believes.” (CCC 2610, Mark 9:23, Matthew 21:22).

But, faith is not based on feelings. Feelings are transient—they come and go. But, “faith is a filial adherence to God beyond what we feel and understand.” (CCC 2609). Trust Him–not your feelings.

To help make your prayer time less stressful, perhaps you can try the following:

  1. Start your day with the Morning Offering.

O Jesus,
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works,
joys and sufferings
of this day for all the intentions
of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular
for the intentions of the Holy Father.

  1. When you pray the Rosary, offer an intention for each decade.

  2. When the Lord brings someone to mind during the day, offer a short prayer for that person.

  3. It’s also possible “to offer fervent prayer even while walking in public or strolling alone, or seated in your shop, . . . while buying or selling, . . . or even while cooking (CCC 2743).

I’ll be praying for you.

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