What Is Prayer?

Our Faith is not ultimately a matter of accepting a set of religious and moral ideas, although the Church does have a rich treasury of doctrine. At its core, the Faith is an encounter with the living God. We make this encounter a daily (hourly) experience through prayer. Prayer at its simplest is our relationship with God. We can speak and listen to God in the ordinary language of friendship, sharing our hopes, joys, sorrows, and concerns. But, of course, God is not just a close friend but the One who creates, redeems, and sustains. To help us in this most important of relationships, the Church gives us time-honored prayers that have fed the faithful over the centuries. These prayers are not ends in themselves but gateways to a deeper encounter with God.

Basic Prayers

These are prayers worth memorizing.

  1. Sign of the Cross 
  2. Our Father
  3. Glory Be
  4. Hail Mary
Act of Contrition

If you’ve had a falling-out with a friend, you can’t resume the relationship until you’ve addressed the issue. Regularly praying an act of contrition allows us to reset our relationship with God. 

O my God, 
I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, 
and I detest all my sins, 
because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; 
but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, 
Who are all good and deserving of all my love. 
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, 
to confess my sins, to do penance, 
and to amend my life.

How to Pray the Rosary

This is one of the most beloved of Catholic prayers and is normally said with a set of rosary beads. It takes a little time to figure out but is well worth the investment.

  1. Make the Sign of the Cross
  2. Holding the Crucifix, say the Apostles’ Creed
  3. On the first bead, say an Our Father
  4. On each of the next three beads, say one Hail Mary
  5. Say the Glory Be
  6. For each of the five decades, announce the Mystery, then say the Our Father.
  7. On each bead of the decade, say a Hail Mary while meditating on the Mystery. At the end of the decade, say a Glory Be and the Fatima Prayer. (O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.
  8. After the five decades, say the Hail, Holy Queen, followed by this dialogue and prayer: V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Let us pray: O God, whose Only Begotten Son, by his life, Death, and Resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech thee, that while meditating on these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
  9. Conclude with the Sign of the Cross
  10. Joyful Mysteries (Mon, Sat):
    1. The Annunciation “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.” - Luke 1:26-27
    2. The Visitation “During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, 'Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.'” - Luke 1:39-42
    3. The Nativity “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” - Luke 2:1-7
    4. The Presentation in the Temple "When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, 'Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,' and to offer the sacrifice of 'a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,' in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.” - Luke 2:21-24
    5. The Finding in the Temple “Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,  and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.” - Luke 2:41-47  
  11. Sorrowful Mysteries (Tu, Fr)
    1. The Agony in the Garden “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, 'My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.' He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.'” - Matthew 26:36-39 
    2. The Scourging at the Pillar “Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.” - Matthew 27:26
    3. The Crowning with Thorns “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!'” - Matthew 27:27-29
    4. The Carrying of the Cross “They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. They brought him to the place of Golgotha (which is translated Place of the Skull).” - Mark 15:21-22 
    5. The Crucifixion "It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit'; and when he had said this he breathed his last.” - Luke 23:33-46  
  12. Glorious Mysteries (Wednesdays and Sundays)
    1. The Resurrection “But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, 'Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised.'” - Luke 24:1-5
    2. The Ascension “So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.” - Mark 16:19  
    3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” - Acts 2:1-4
    4. The Assumption “Behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” - Luke 1:48-49
    5. The Coronation of Mary “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” - Revelation 12:1
  13. Luminous Mysteries (Thursdays)
    1. The Baptism of Christ “After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'” - Matthew 3:16-17
    2. The Wedding Feast at Cana “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.' [And] Jesus said to her, 'Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.' His mother said to the servers, 'Do whatever he tells you.'” - John 2:1-5
    3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God “'This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.'” - Mark 1:15   
    4. The Transfiguration “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” - Matthew 17:1-2
    5. The Institution of the Eucharist “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, 'Take and eat; this is my body.'” - Matthew 26:26  

The Liturgy of the Hours

The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office, is the daily prayer of the Church. It marks five canonical Hours, of which the most important are Morning and Evening Prayer. The Divine Office is associated with clergy and religious but is encouraged for the lay as well. A breviary is a prayer book containing the Office. It can also be prayed using an app such as iBreviary.

Great Books on Prayer

33 Days to Morning Glory, Fr. Michael Gaitley

Interior Freedom, Fr. Jacques Philippe

Prayer Primer, Thomas Dubay

In Sinu Jesu