Formulaic prayer. Structured. Our Lord taught us but a single prayer: the Lord’s Prayer. Are we supposed to offer it a single time and be done? Prayer, unless our hearts are in it, is empty recitation - vain. We cannot expect any result from that. Yet, the Lord prayed repetitively to the Father and did not sin. Do we suppose that the Father did not hear Him at first? Of course not! Powers attributed to any certain type pf prayer demand a deep faith and devotion, otherwise they can fall into the sin of superstition. Yet, any and all prayers are to be offered while we focus on the content of the prayer, the import of each word, as well as our heart’s disposition as we pray.
Prayer is elevating our hearts and minds to God. It is conversation with Him, whether Father, Son, or yes, Holy Spirit. Can we think of any human conversation we enter into in which we mumble empty, useless words or phrases? Even at the drive-thru, we state clearly what we seek and we listen for the response to be certain we were understood. How much like this should our prayers to God be!
We may indeed “feel” something when we pray - but that is not the reason for, or purpose of prayer. When we intercede for others we pray well, as we have greater opportunity to leave ourselves out of the equation. IMO, the more we offer prayer for others and the less for ourselves, the more they benefit - the more we benefit.
James the Less teaches that the prayer of a righteous man avails much. Conversely, he admonishes that many of us pray and do not receive, as we ask amiss. The loudest prayer of all is that which comes from the most humble of hearts, and humility, like love, is something we choose, something to be desired, indeed one of the very few things worth being grasped at.
An example or two. Some prayer, in many cases the most effective and memorable, involve no words at all. I do not offer myself as anything other than the worst sinner here. Yet, over ten years ago, I was before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The book of prayer intentions was there.
I found an intention written for a fellow parishioner who was fighting a potentially fatal infection. Many were praying for her. she was not improving. I was lead to simply trace my finger back and forth across the writing while weeping for her. I have no idea of the time involved, but I received a strong and unmistakable spiritual consolation. Sudden comfort. Peace.
As it turns out, our prayers were heard and that little consolation coincided with the infection responding to treatment. We greeted and hugged each other this past Sunday. She it was who lead me into the chapel and laid hands on me when I was first diagnosed with cancer in 2008.
That cancer relapsed twice, mutated into two cancers and treatment caused a third bone marrow cancer, simultaneously. Her prayer for me never stopped. Recently given a 99.5% chance of succumbing to those cancers, I type this being cancer free.
I cannot relate this without tears. God is everything and I am nothing, but look at just how merciful He can be to “nothing.”
The power of prayer. As they say, “Priceless.”