“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-8)
Recently on Morning Air, John Morales hosted Gary Zimak to talk about methods of prayer, the differences between recited prayer and mental prayer, and to answer the question, “Is there a right way to pray?”
John began the conversation by referring back to the above passage from Chapter 6 of Matthew where Jesus gives us guidelines for prayer. John said that many non-Catholic Christians are under the impression that Jesus is condemning repetitive, recited prayer like the Hail Mary in the Rosary. But that’s not the case at all according to Gary.
What the Lord says is do not “babble”, which means to say words without meaning. He is referencing the pagans and the sanctimonious Pharisees who stand in the temple, spouting eloquent yet depthless words to God. Saying words and calling it “prayer” doesn’t make it prayer. Prayer comes from the heart with the intention of communicating with God in a way that brings us closer to Him.
You will accomplish more by sincerely praying “Lord, save me,” or “Jesus, I trust in You,” than you will by simply reciting a litany of mindless invocations.
“[Jesus] is not at all saying that repetitive prayer is not good,” said Gary. “What He’s saying is that when you pray, mean what you’re saying.”
When we pray prayers in repetition, it’s an exercise in ceding control to Our Lord. We have desires in our personal lives. We have desires in our relationships. That seeps into our prayer life and we have a desire for a way that we want it to go. By giving up control, we can pray the way the Lord taught us. He wants us to ask Him for things and tell Him what we want, but sometimes, it pays to hand the reigns over and just say, “Lord you know what I need. Your will be done.” That is what we are saying in the Our Father and the Glory Be.
Jesus told us that Our Father knows what we need before we ask for it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask. He also said, “Ask, and You shall receive.” If God, is going to give us what He knows we need anyway, why bother asking? Well, He wants us to realize and remember that everything comes from Him. Every blessing, gift, stroke of good fortune, moment of strength, and virtuous reinvigoration is God looking out for us, giving us what we need to succeed.
So that brings us to the main question at hand: Is there a right way to pray?
Jesus has told us that there is. We should take the Lord’s words seriously when He says, “This is how you are to pray…” That doesn’t mean we must say those exact words, but we can use the Our Father as a model for how we should approach God. We should approach Him as His children, as His creatures. But just because there is a right way to pray, doesn’t mean there’s a wrong way to pray. If we speak to God from our hearts and with all sincerity and meaning, we are praying. And there are more effective and less effective methods, but at the end of the day, God hears them all.
“I think the only wrong way to pray is to not pray.”
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