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How to pray well October 13, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, General Catholic, Our Lady.

Especially the Rosary, but this can apply to any form of prayer:

From The Secret of the Rosary, by St. Louis Marie de Montfort
With purity of intention:
IT IS NOT SO much the length of a prayer, but the fervor with which it is said which pleases Almighty God and touches His Heart. One single Hail Mary that is said properly is worth more than one hundred and fifty that are badly said. Most Catholics say the Rosary, the whole fifteen mysteries or five of them anyway or, at least a few decades. So why is it then that so few of them give up their sins and go forward in the spiritual life? Surely it must be because they are not saying them as they should. It is a good thing to think over how we should pray if we really want to please God and become more holy. 
With attention:
IN ORDER TO pray well, it is not enough to give expression to our petitions by means of that most excellent of all prayers, the Rosary, but we must also pray with real concentration for God listens more to the voice of the heart than that of the mouth. To be guilty of willful distractions during prayer would show a great lack of respect and reverence; it would make our Rosaries fruitless and would make us guilty of sin. 
How can we expect God to listen to us if we ourselves do not pay attention to what we are saying? Of course, you cannot possibly say your Rosary without having a few involuntary distractions and it is hard to say even one Hail Mary without your imagination troubling you a little (for our imagination is, alas, never still). The one thing you can do, however, is to say your Rosary without giving in to distractions deliberately and you can take all sorts of precautions to lessen involuntary distractions and to control your imagination. 
With this in mind put yourself in the presence of God and imagine that Almighty God and His Blessed Mother are watching you and that your guardian Angel is standing at your right hand, taking your Hail Marys, if they are well said, and using them like roses to make crowns for Jesus and Mary. Above all, do not forget to offer up each decade in honor of one of the mysteries and while you are saying it try to form a picture in your mind of Jesus and Mary in connection with this mystery. 
Fighting distractions:
WHEN THE ROSARY is well said it gives Jesus and Mary more glory and it is more meritorious for the soul than any other prayer. But it is also the hardest prayer to say well and to persevere in, owing especially to the distractions which almost inevitably attend the constant repetition of the same words.
Being human, we easily become tired and slipshod—-but the devil makes these difficulties worse when we are saying the Rosary. Before we even begin he makes us feel bored, distracted or exhausted—-and when we have started praying he oppresses us from all sides. And when, after much difficulty and many distractions, we have finished, he whispers to us: “What you have just said is worthless. It’s useless for you to say the Rosary. You had better get on with other things. It’s only a waste of time to pray without paying attention to what you’re saying; half an hour’s meditation or some spiritual reading would be much better. Tomorrow when you’re not feeling so sluggish you’ll pray better; don’t finish your Rosary until tomorrow.” By tricks of this kind the devil gets us to give up the Rosary altogether or else hardly say it at all, and we keep putting it off or else change to some other devotion. 
Do not listen to the devil, but be of good heart even if your imagination has been bothering you throughout your Rosary, filling your mind with all kinds of distracting thoughts—-as long as you really tried hard to get rid of them as soon as they came. Always remember that the best Rosary is the one with the most merit, and there is more merit in praying when it is hard than when it is easy.
This is a major problem for me.  I try very hard to concentrate on the Mysteries of the Rosary, or any other prayer I say, but  my mind is so weak and fragmented that I must fight always to keep it meditating appropriately.  If I’m able to focus, really focus, for more than half the prayer, I’ve done well.  I pray almost always when I’m driving.  I probably should not do that, because the distractions of driving make it difficult to focus on the prayer.  I also probably pray too much by rote or from a book, that is, not just talking with God, but using words written by others.  Many priests today counsel that this is not a good thing to do too much.  I don’t know what too much is.  I do talk to God every day, but probably not enough.  With people, I can be an OK listener, but with God, not so much.  It’s not that I ask things for myself, other than this very small thing of making me holy and nothing but a servant of God’s Will, but I just talk.  With God, I have a hard time just listening.  Sometimes I manage to listen, a little.
 When George Bush was late in his presidency, he gave an interview in which he stated that he “talks to God.”  The interviewer, and the media in general, found this shocking – they were terrified that he was demented, and was listening to some crazy voice in his head he mistook for God, for surely God is not so real that he would actually speak to us.  The Saints would laugh at this.  They talked with God.  They knew his presence.  I’m sure our modern culture thinks they were crazy, too.  A modern day St. Catherine of Siena would be locked up in an insane asylum and drugged until she no longer had any connection with God.  There is nothing our modern, neo-pagan culture fears and loathes more than someone professing to know God. 
BTW, the book, The Secret of the Rosary, is teh awesome!11!


1. Chris Baker - October 13, 2010

I have a student who tried to play guitar, but she couldn’t get focused on it and was unmotivated to practice and so forth. I almost had to let her go but decided to see if she’d rather play ukulele instead.

She switched to uke and all the old problems disappeared. Our lessons are more focused, and her motivation is much higher for the uke than it ever was for guitar.

My point is that sometimes folks pick the wrong thing, even though they have good intentions. I think prayer styles are much like this. While the rosary is a prayer that anyone can do, and it is widely commended by popes and saints, it may not be the prayer that matches my prayerful disposition.

There are times when I pray the rosary every day, and it was very important for me during my conversion (it’s still important btw), but most of the time I feel more drawn towards lectio divina or adoration.

That’s the wonderful thing about the Catholic Church, and it drew me to it as a convert: the treasury of prayers and prayer styles that it has stored up & taught over the centuries. One can pray like St Thomas Aquinas or like St Francis of Assisi or dive into the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius or follow the Little Way of St Therese of Lisieux. One may be drawn to one, but not to another, and still be prayerful and devout.

Also the notion of what other priests or spiritual directors mention in talks or books can only be taken very generally, for it be rather difficult to apply their advice specifically to one’s own prayer style & situation. If praying by rote or by the book are such bad things and ill-advised, then what are the priests doing during Mass? Why pray the Our Father, for instance?

Great stuff for St Louis de Montfort! Thanks for posting it. I need to find my copy and read it again.

2. Anthony N. Emmel - October 15, 2010

I agree. “Secrets of the Rosary” is one of the best books on the subject out there. When I began the journey to convert to Catholicism when I was in the Army, it was one of the first books that my chaplain gave me to read. It has stayed with me since.

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