In my personal prayer life, I’m not a fan of pre-scripted prayers in general. Joan Osborne once sang “What If God Was One of Us?” Well, I believe He was one of us. I believe in the Holy Trinity, one God in three persons. Jesus is one of the Trinity. He was fully human and fully divine. Sure, he lacked sin, but he did live here on earth, saw the suffering and experienced suffering of his own. As a result, I prefer to talk to God, Jesus, in everyday language, as if we were two friends sitting together enjoying each other’s company. That’s how I normally pray.
There are two exceptions, however. The Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I used to pray the Rosary quite often, then for some reason I stopped praying it as often. Then I started praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily. Then, for some reason, I also stopped praying that.
In 2000 Pope John Paul II designated the Sunday after Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday in the Catholic Church. Typically, starting with Good Friday, the devout are encouraged to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet as a novena, to pray the prayers daily for nine days. The prayers are offered for different souls each day:
Day 1: All mankind, especially all sinners.
Day 2: The souls of priests and religious.
Day 3: The devout and faithful souls.
Day 4: Those who do not believe in God and those who do not yet know Jesus.
Day 5: The souls of those who have separated themselves from the church.
Day 6: The meek and the humble souls and the souls of little children.
Day 7: The souls who especially venerate and glorify Jesus’s mercy.
Day 8: The souls who are detained in purgatory.
Day 9: The souls who have become lukewarm.
(To learn more about these devotions click the links in this blog post, or go to http://www.ewtn.com.)
I liked praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet because it helped me to think about others in the world, take my focus off of myself. When I used to pray it daily, I would pray along with the Divine Mercy in Song program on EWTN radio. I even bought a CD of the Divine Mercy in Song so that if I missed the Chaplet recitation on the radio, then I could recite it along with the CD when I had the time. Then, for some reason, I stopped my devotion. Recently, on Good Friday, I made a vow to myself to say the Divine Mercy novena, hoping that I would get in the habit of daily structured prayer again. Well, I haven’t exactly been reciting the prayers every day, but I’m still hoping…. One thing that has been happening is that the individual prayers have been sticking in my head and I find myself throughout the day singing the prayers. Something that doesn’t happen otherwise.
And, this got me thinking about prayer and music. For me the musical Divine Mercy Chaplet so moves my soul that I want to sing the prayers at all hours of the day. The music enhances my personal prayer life. The music allows me to give a physical voice to the prayer.
Then there’s the Hail Mary. When said by itself in English, or as part of the Rosary, at least for me, it can become quite automatic. Sometimes this is what I want. Sometimes I just want God to talk to me through the prayer. Get lost in the prayer so to speak. However, this prayer can also become quite routine. So much so that the words can be said, but they are not felt. Perhaps this is why I stopped reciting the Rosary those many years ago. I figured that if I couldn’t put my heart and soul into the prayers, it would be better if I didn’t pray them at all.
And, then there’s the Ave Maria. The Hail Mary in Latin.
Listening to this my soul cannot help but feel the words, feel the prayer. The music allows my soul to give a spiritual voice to the prayer.
I’ve found that music can enhance my prayer life, whether by inspiring me to pray more spontaneously or by feeding my soul’s need to feel prayer, to glorify God, and thus appreciate the beauty and meaning of the words.