I have some issues with what has seemed to be the evolution of the “Glory Be,” the “Hail Mary,” and the “Our Father” into the penny, nickel, and dime of spiritual currency. I further take exception to the fact that wittingly or unwittingly the church has perpetuated this notion of transacting salvation. Such “inflation” devalues the prayers, praying, and the loving extension of Your redemptive role in every aspect of our lives. When I was growing up these three prayers were the recommended cornerstones of all petitions. They were also the bricks and mortar of the rosary, the conciliatory payback, in various multiples, of confessional penance, as well as the common prayers summoned up at funerals, before classes, for the souls in purgatory, etc. I’m guessing here, but I would venture to say that for a number of Catholics they define praying. So commonly summoned are they that their mindless recitation is, often, robotic and far from praying. To dwell and meditate on the words and spirit of each prayer can be a revelation to those of us who’ve thoughtlessly uttered their syllables over the years. Intention is what may save them from being mere verbal exercises.
The reality of this having been said, it is still not the point I’m getting at. The real problem seems to be the attitude attached to the use of these three prayers. At various points, as we grow up in the faith, we somehow arrive at, or are led to the conclusion that x-number of Hail Mary’s, Our Fathers, and Glory Be’s will “purchase” something we seek: the health of a loved-one, success on a test, the repose of a soul, mercy, forgiveness, grace, or peace in the world. When we are young we are taught this currency and how to use it. But what we are not taught is that prayer from the heart is better. We do not use formulaic repetitions to speak to those we love. We speak from the heart as friends and lovers. The Hail Mary, Our Father, and Glory Be are not the prescribed offerings with which we purchase Your favor. Prayer not from the lips but from the heart is.