Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Vain and Repetitive Prayer

So I started listening to my friend the Catholic Journeyman's podcasts...which he forewarned me were boring...and I found them, as I expected, to be quite the opposite. Actually his podcasts are stimulating and my only complaint is for him to do more of them. He made a comment about when he was approached by a Protestant about his Faith and how he dealt with a seemingly "vain and repititious" mass where the prayers were similar or the same every time. This triggered something in my mind I have been meaning to discuss for quite some time.

Most attacks against Catholic prayer come from three fronts. First, I have heard complaints about the Eucharistic prayers (that the Priest says during the sacrifice of the Eucharist at every mass). Secondly, I have heard complaints about the Rosary - and the repetitiveness of the Hail Mary specifically. Third, people complain that we use written prayers instead of spontaneous prayers in so many cases. I want to deal with all these complaints together.

I challenge anyone to sincerely study the meaning and depth of the Eucharistic prayers or even the Hail Mary and try to tell me that they are simple, vain, and repititious. The Hail Mary, in and of itself, is so deep with scripture and theology that you could pray it a billion times and meditate on different aspects of it each time. No one can completely break down the prayer, no matter how simple it is and all the time we hear people who meditate upon it bring out some other form of depth from its midst that we have not heard before.

Also, let's discuss how the Lord asked us to pray. The Lord's Prayer is the beautiful and also rich prayer that Jesus taught his disciples and told them to pray. It has been part of the Church's worship since the first days of the Church. Again, he didn't tell us to pray it just so we could be "repetitious" but rather so that we could come to a deep feeling about the Church, our role in the world and our relationship with his Father.

Furthermore, complainers should do well to realize that scripture reading and hymn singing are both forms of prayer, and that they are written and could be considered just if not more "repetitive" then Catholic prayer.

Jewish prayer also (along with the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours) has always been grounded in the Psalms. These written prayers teach us much about how to pray and how to respect God. Considering that Jesus prayed the same prayer 3 times in the Garden of Gethsemane, and that Psalm 136 says "And his steadfast Love endures forever" 25 times, and that those surrounding God's throne sing "Holy Holy Holy" FOREVER, I'd say its a hard argument.

It's at least much better to pray a deep and thoughtful prayer over and over with different meditations than the same bland "spontaneous" prayers that most of us try to do every time we pray just because we aren't that creative or can't think up great new theological prayers on the spot.





6 comments:

The Catholic Journeyman said...

You are far too kind. I have not abandoned the podcast effort, my Catechetical teaching last year took me into such deeper layers of discovery and learning, (even about my early anti-Catholic encounters) ; I wanted to include that content in the sequence. You and I being into the journey aspect, a progression that is, the sequence of the cast is essential to my project. I am consolidating the notes from those 9 months of Catechesis, to resume the cast soon.

Your take on the Lord's Prayer in your post is mine as well. Just the words "thy Kingdom Come" have spawned careers of theological focus due to its depth.

In the First PWC (Praying with the Church) podcast, (the link in my other comment on podcasts here) that narrator gave insight on "written" vs. spontaneous" prayers in a fascinating apologetic way.

-Dave

~Joseph the Worker said...

I put the first episode and prayer on my player, I should be listening to it soon.

Matt Watson said...

I'm with you, Joseph, on vain prayers. I go to EWTN and pray their prayers a lot, especially the Sacred Heart of Jesus prayer.

~Joseph the Worker said...

That's awesome Matt. Did you know this is the month of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus? After mass every day our parish is praying the Rosary and concluding it with the Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. http://www.sacredheart.com/LitanyOfTheSacredHeart.htm

mamalong said...

"It's at least much better to pray a deep and thoughtful prayer over and over with different meditations than the same bland "spontaneous" prayers that most of us try to do every time we pray just because we aren't that creative or can't think up great new theological prayers on the spot."

I can repeat for you the "spontaneous" prayer my dad prayed before every single meal, and probably still does, complete with intonation. Great post!

~Joseph the Worker said...

Good thoughts mamalong. Actually in the podcast the Catholic Journeyman was talking about above, he mentions that very point - that spontaneous prayers can get very repetitive and often do, AND that we lose focus of what we are praying about because we are too focused on what words to use.