Prayer is an important part of a person’s religious and faith life. Prayer takes many forms, and we each utilize it in different ways. I have to admit that my favorite and most-used form is that of petition. I am frequently bringing various problems and difficulties to God’s attention, and indicating with great clarity what it is exactly that He should bring about—and on my time schedule, of course.
Seriously, though, prayer is an important word in the lives of most people who profess to have faith, but it is a word with a wide variety of meanings. In general, it is the way we manifest in our own personal lives how we do or want to relate to the God that we worship. Catholics have the reputation, not completely deserved, as praying constantly from formulas of prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer, the Rosary, the Apostle’s Creed, and various types of novenas. This does not mean that Catholics do not also pray in a completely ad-libbed manner; it’s just that when they come together, there is a rich tradition of common prayer. Whether it’s 200 or 200,000 Catholics simultaneously uniting their voices in prayer, in my opinion that’s a beautiful manifestation of shared faith.
There are four basic forms of prayer: adoration, petition, thanksgiving and contrition. What must never be forgotten and always stressed is that prayer is conversation with God. Conversation! That conversation must be natural from the point of view of the person that is doing the praying. This opens up the need for personal, non-memorized prayer. I believe the only advantage of memorized prayer is making it easy to pray aloud together. We tend to get into a format that we’re comfortable with, and use it repeatedly. Instead, I think we should struggle to avoid that, and get back to the concept of an ongoing, personal conversation with our Lord.