It’s about four months since I started a new daily prayer routine. (February 19, 2017)
I sometimes forget the morning set, but not often. Having a printout of both sets next to my keyboard helps.
The evening prayers are another matter. Happily, I remember the gist of what’s between the Lord’s prayer and “glory be.” That lets me catch up: if I remember before falling asleep, which doesn’t always happen.
Invoking other bogeymen, I could blame my parents, society’s conventions, folks who don’t like Vatican II, or social media.
I don’t think any of that makes sense.
For one thing, nobody forced me to forget. I’m pretty sure I did that on my own.
How much responsibility comes with each decision is another question. We’re learning that psychological and other glitches can and do sometimes get in the way of clear thinking, and that’s another topic.1 (Catechism, 1735)
Feeling that God is smiting me with forgetfulness because my prayers are routine? I think that’s as unreasonable as holding someone else accountable for my shortcomings.2
Instead, each time I realize I goofed — again — I do what I can to catch up.
If I don’t remember until the next day, or if catching up isn’t possible for another reason, I try to avoid forgetting the next time around.
It’s not that I don’t care, or think that prayer doesn’t matter.
I’m sure that prayer is important, and don’t like it when I forget. I’m also quite sure that God knows I’m human, and takes that into account.
Folks have told me that prayers shouldn’t be memorized, that prayer should always be spontaneous. They have a point.
Prayer can be spontaneous. (Catechism, 2629)
Maybe their emphasis on spontaneous prayer came from realizing that prayer should be more than an unthinking habit.
‘Prayer’ shouldn’t be sounds I make in particular circumstances, without paying attention to what the words mean. That sort of thing isn’t prayer. Not in the Catholic sense.
“…To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.41
Reducing prayer to nothing more than ritual words and postures is a bad idea. So is seeing it as merely psychological activity, or an effort to make my mind blank. (Catechism, 2726)
Prayer is a gift of grace. It’s also something I can’t do unless I decide it’s worth the effort. (Catechism, 2725)
And prayer does take effort.
I must fight attitudes I’ve learned from “this present world” each time I pray: pitfalls dug when time did not exist. Regrettable habits and attitudes I’ve developed give me trouble, too.3 (Catechism, 391–395, 2725–2728)
Happily, there’s help available.
Memorized prayers are in the mix, along with reminders that it’s not just the words.
Thinking about what the words mean is important. (Catechism, 2688)
Prayer is always possible. (Catechism, 2743)
Anyone who has tried forming a habit of prayer knows that it’s not always easy:
“…There was a moment when I nearly refused to accept. — Deliberately I took the Rosary and very slowly and without even meditating or thinking – I said it slowly and calmly. The moment passed — but the darkness is so dark, and the pain is so painful….”
(Letter to Bishop Lawrence Trevor Picachy (September 1962), as quoted in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (2009) by Brian Kolodiejchuk, 2009, p. 238; via Wikiquote)
I think memorized prayers help at times like that. A lot.
Sharing our Lord’s love isn’t easy, either, and that’s yet another topic.
Posts, related and not so much:
- “Living With Consequences”
(March 5, 2017)
- “New Daily Prayer Routine”
(February 19, 2017)
- “Sin, Awareness, Repentance”
(December 4, 2016)
- “The Rosary”
Guest post (October 30, 2016)
- “The Virtue Trap”
(October 23, 2016)
- “Good Intentions” (May 12, 2017)
- “Internet Friends, Real People” (March 19, 2017)
- “Elastic Brains and New Tech” (October 14, 2016)
2 Imagining that God has anger management issues isn’t new. We’ve had a “distorted image” of God ever since the first of us made a disastrous choice. (Catechism, 399)
- God and getting a grip
- Free will and responsibility