My prayer life is improving (thanks be to God). I am reading/offering more and more prayers for various intentions. During this growth process, I discovered a book of spiritual warfare prayers. The website indicated these are very powerful prayers to ward off evil in one’s life. I began to fervently look for this prayer book in every Catholic bookstore I could find. Once I noticed how intensely focused I was on finding this book, I asked myself if actually needed this book at all for spiritual protection. Why couldn’t I craft my own prayer with the same intention? Would my self-crafted prayer be as effective as the ones in this elusive book?
That thought brought about a flood of similar questions about the rosary: If I prayed just the angelic salutation as was done in the 11th century, is it less effective as ones with the later part (Holy Mary, Mother of God…) added three centuries later? What if I substituted the Hail Mary’s for the Jesus Prayer, as our eastern brothers and sisters do? What if I only prayed one Hail Mary and spent the next two minutes intently meditating, silently, on a particular mystery? Could I summarize the Glory Be to “Glory be to the trinity, whose truth endures forever” and still communicate the same praise to God? What about re-wording the Fatima Prayer, or the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel?
So, are the positive effects of prayer only available to those who recite prayers exactly as they are written? The answer should be obvious, but to some, reading specific prayers every day using exactly the same words is very important. To an outsider, this could look like Catholic prayers are incantations to be said in just the right way for a particular spell to work. Given the sheer number of prayer books on the market, and the rigidity with which old ladies recite the rosary, how do we mount a reasonable defense more effective than, “well, I know it may look like that but…it really isn’t?”