As I’ve mentioned here before, I enjoy experimenting with different types of prayer. My first experiences with prayer were of the extemporaneous sort where you say whatever is on your heart. I then experienced salat as a Muslim in my early teens, and since then I have found it intriguing to read about, study, and try out different forms of prayer from various religions.
Growing up, the spontaneous prayer style was always a bit hard for me. I need more structured prayers because my mind wanders entirely too much when I pray. I could start off praying for a friend’s broken car, for example, and before long I’ll be thinking about what caused the car to break down and how cars actually work. Then I’ll start asking inward questions about different car companies and why, if cars are basically made the same way, do some cars work better and break down less frequently than others? Then I’m wondering about global car companies and how the cars are made and sent here and where they get the money for it all, and how do you get into the car business, anyway? And before long, I’ll forget I was ever praying at all!
After learning to pray salat, which involves not only recited words but bodily movements that kept me focused, I realized that there are other ways to pray aside from what I’d been taught, and that I thrived in prayer that had form and structure. After my days as a Muslim were over, I continued to search for a prayer style that fit me.
A few months ago, I learned to pray the rosary. I had been interested in the idea of praying with beads but learning to pray the rosary was the first time I’d ever taken it seriously. I really enjoyed the experience and gained alot of insight into the Catholic faith. However, what I think stood out to me the most was how quieted my mind became. I’ve always had a hard time getting my mind to “be still,” and praying the rosary was the first time that I experienced prayer without the wandering thoughts. I wanted to keep that up.
But, I’m not a Catholic. And as much as I respect and love the Catholic faith, I still don’t feel comfortable making the rosary part of my everyday prayer regimen. So, I thought of a compromise. I’ve continued to pray using rosary beads, but not actually praying the rosary. I hope my use of rosary beads isn’t offensive to the Catholic faith, but I want to share what I’ve been doing in case there are any others like me who aren’t Catholic or Orthodox but are searching for a more structured prayer style.
At the beginning of a prayer session, between the cross and the first yellow bead, I say what I’ll call an “intention” prayer. It’s just a greeting, really, letting God know I’m getting ready to pray. I also try to think about God and get in a mindset for prayer. I tell God that I’m grateful for Him and for the blessing of being able to come to him in prayer. I also use this time to thank God for anything I want to thank him for, and I may say something like, “Lord, please consider all the prayers I am about to say as prayers for anyone who is sick or dying in the hospital right now.”I end this section on the first yellow bead by saying “in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen. ”
On the three beads between the two yellow beads, I pray the Jesus Prayer. This is an Orthodox Christian prayer that simply says, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I use this portion to ask God’s forgiveness for anything I know I’ve done wrong or to help me with anything I know I need to do better with.
On the second yellow bead, I pray “Glory be to the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, amen.”
On the decades of beads, (the ten beads in a row), I pray a scripture that I want to commit to memory for the day. For example, if I had already dedicated my prayer session for all those sick and dying in the hospital, then the scripture I might be praying could be “so we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”
This is a good way to help memorize different verses of scripture because by the end of the prayer, I’ve repeated the verse fifty times.
At the end of each decade of beads, there is a yellow bead. On these yellow beads I have been praying spontaneous prayers for people or situations that I know of personally. Once I finish all five decades, I say another “Glory Be,” and where I had before said the Jesus Prayer three times, I say the Our Father three times.
On the very last bead, just before I get back to the cross again, I thank God a second time and end with “In the name of the father, and of the son…”
This style really works for me in terms of keeping me focused on the prayer I am praying and in terms of keeping my mind quiet enough to discern if God is saying something to me. Many times, while I am praying the scripture memorization portion, God will tell me what to pray for at the next “spontaneous prayer” portion. This is the first time that I’ve experienced God telling me what to pray for, so I think that’s kind of neat. I am so glad that this prayer idea came to me, because it came at a time where I was starting to feel so burned out by my failed attempts at a decent prayer life. I don’t think I ever would have thought of this if I hadn’t tried praying the rosary a few months back. So I’m very grateful!
What’s your favorite way to pray?