Although I was active in my protestant church as a teenager, I fell away from the Church, although not from my faith, at college and through the early years of marriage. I visited many churches, and although my wife would seldom join me in Church, I felt God was repeatedly calling me.
In those days my prayer life was erratic, except when I was physically in Church. But friends have encouraged me to develop the habit of regular prayer: to seek a prayer schedule at the times that seemed most meaningful to me. As a child, prayer at meals and bedtime were almost routine, so it was fairly easy for me to get back to them (except for lunch and silent prayers at restaurants--which I really want to do, but only seldom remember). I was reminded that the Jews prayed three times a day, and the Psalmist had written of praying seven times a day.
It was a simple decision to resolve to set a schedule daily prayers: am, meals, vespers, night prayer, and others; but more difficult to get myself into the habit. A relative gave me a prayer journal, essentially a calendar with room to write, plus many good devotions, and by leaving the journal in a conspicuous spot I am frequently reminded to pray if I should forget. My new prayer life has awakened the wonderful Joy of Communion with God.
I hope to encourage readers to also seek the habit of regular, daily prayer, and in subsequent blogs to discuss further the Joy that I have found since prayers have helped me come back to Church. I found that a small prayer book can help me enormously at times when I wasn't entirely sure how to pray, or too distracted, and I have been motivated by learning that many Catholics pray the daily Divine Office, at scheduled times as they are able, all around the world. Come seek the habit and the Communion of regular, daily prayer.
The first prayer I recommend everyday is the prayer that our Lord Jesus Christ taught in His Sermon on the Mount. Much has been written to explain why this simple prayer is the ultimate of prayer, with praise to God as well as supplication. It is a model for every prayer. This prayer is strongly recommended as your first prayer of each day. Say it, if you can, before your foot first hits the floor.
If you are a purist, you may want to say it as St Mathew recalled it in his Gospel at Chapter 6, verse 9f, in the words of your Bible. My Bible has it like this:
Our Father in Heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Because Bible publishers cannot freely copy each others translations, and surely for other reasons as well, almost every publisher has modified the wording to some extent, as have most churches, and you may be more comfortable using the words your church uses in its formal assembly. The wisdom and beauty of this wonderful prayer have generally remained constant despite the widespread but usually relatively minor revisions in translation. There is a wonderful sense of unity in the Kingdom of God when the People of God pray together, and I pray that you will feel it, even when you pray alone.
You may recall that when St Luke wrote his Gospel, he wrote in Greek, primarily for worship and reading by Gentiles, and although he almost certainly had St Matthew’s Aramaic Gospel available, or perhaps a Greek copy, he modified our Lord’s Prayer, in Chapter 11, verse 2, in a way he probably thought would be more understandable and more compelling to the Gentiles;
Father, Hallowed be your name,
Your Kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.
I intend to add additional prayers that I recommend for daily use, from which I have found wonderful inspiration, consolation, joy, and peace. I hope these blessings will also come to you and to whomever you may share these prayers.
Generally our own words, thoughts, and feelings are our most effective communication with God, but so often we are distracted by worldly concerns and feel we have not prayed meaningfully--in those times a prayer book of favorite prayers and devotions can be very helpful and comforting.
Successful prayer is communion with God, the Divine Trinity, whether you are speaking, or thinking, or just listening for Him; may you celebrate His Presence and His Love.