When I was five years old, my grandmother used to make me kneel in front of her, fold my hands, put them in her folded hands and teach me to pray the “Otche Nas,“—the “Our Father.” After that came the “Hail Mary.” I still remember those simple words she said when teaching me the “Hail Mary:”
Lovely Lady dressed in blue,
teach me how to pray.
God became your little Boy,
and you know the way.
She taught me not only to say the words of the Our Father and the Hail Mary; she would tell me why we called God “Our Father” and would inspire me to pray from the heart; the same with the “Hail Mary.” She made me understand it is most important to pray, and why. But I owe it to my gentle mother, Anna, and to my rather demanding father, Andre, who rooted me in the spirit of prayer. “Whatever you do, do it the right way the first time,” Dad would say, “and that goes for prayer too.” I will never forget when my father took me on the field (we were farmers) to begin the spring plowing to put our crop in. (I was twelve at the time). He knelt down on the field, and prayed: “Dear God, please bless our work for your glory and our harvest.” Then, after we had sown the wheat, he would again kneel down and say: “Dear God, thank you for all your help.” He would do this before and after each field work all year round. He deepened within me not only the need to pray but also the way to pray in every thing I did. He wanted to make sure I prayed the way I should.
At the Benedictine Fathers’ and Brothers’ St. Peter’s College I was immersed into their motto and spirit: “Ora et labora, ut in omnibus Glorificetur Deus.“—“Pray and work so that in all things God will be glorified.” Prayer and work: from the heart. Again, their lived experience made my heart grow genuinely in the spirit of prayer. Then three years later, when I entered the Novitiate and eventually the Seminary to study for the Priesthood as a Redemptorist, I grew in a deeper dimension of prayer as set out by St. Alphonsus de Liguori, the Founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer: Popularly called: The Redemptorists. In his book, the Great Means of Salvation, St. Alphonsus explained just about all the aspects of Prayer, and then summed it all up in these startling words: “He who prays will be saved; he who does not pray, will not be saved.” (I do not aim to explain this in this project. Enough to say that the Church has approved all his many books and gave him the Title of “Doctor of the Church). For the past fifty two years as a Redemptorist priest, I not only steeped my own self in why we need to pray and to pray as we should, but also worked at deepening this same spirit in the hearts of all whom God had placed in my care. Let me repeat: We must pray, and equally important, we must pray as we should. Listen to St. Paul, who says:
“the Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness, for, when we do not know how to pray properly, then the Spirit personally makes our petitions for us in groans that can not be put into words; and he (God) who can see into all hearts knows what the Spirit means because the prayers that the Spirit makes for God’s holy people are always in accordance with the mind of God.”
No wonder my parishioners in North East Brasil summed it up simply: “Sem Deus, nao vai” (“Without God, nothing goes”, giving a popular rendition of our Lord’s words: “Without me, you can do nothing.” (John 15,5).
The Holy Spirit had inspired and directed chosen men to create one hundred and fifty special prayers—called The Psalms. It is these prayers, The Psalms, that I have chosen as the basis for this project “ TO PRAY DAILY IN THE WAY WE SHOULD.” Let’s keep three things in mind: 1) We are the living, holy Temple of the Holy Spirit (ICor. 3,16-17)—i.e., the Holy Spirit personally resides within us (unless we drive Him/Her away by serious sin); 2) the Holy Spirit helps us; 3) the Holy Spirit even provided the inspired prayers for us. Please do not get the notion that this is the only way to pray. There are many, many ways to pray. God accepts them all and listens to them all.
When you look into the “Our Father” prayer, you will notice the following four features:
1) we praise and adore God;
2) we express our trust/confidence in God;
3) we ask for what we need; and
4) we thank God for his goodness to us.
These four actions (praise, trust, ask, and thank) are all in many ways expressed in the Psalms. These actions are really the very heart and soul of religion and of our deepest religious sentiment: love: love for God and love for neighbor, with no exceptions.
So, for my project: ‘TO PRAY DAILY IN THE WAY WE SHOULD’, I have chosen some one hundred and twenty Psalms in which the above four actions of our religious sentiments are expressed. Then from those one hundred and twenty psalms, I picked out those portions which
1) praise God;
2) express our trust;
3) express what we ask for;
4) those by which we thank God.
Finally, I put the four portions together to form one prayer for the day. At the end of each portion I have put the number of the Psalm from which that portion came, so that if you wanted to, you can look up that whole Psalm. In this way, I have put together prayers for 31 days: Day 1, Day 2, etc. Each Day’s prayer takes about five minutes: five minutes to praise God, to show trust in God, to ask God, and to thank God. You may, at first, find the Psalm prayers “dry”, or too impersonal, and feel like praying some other way. That’s a normal reaction: the Psalms were created by men of a culture and historic situation notably different from our own, to say nothing of a language not our own. But I urge you, don’t give up! In time, you will feel very inspired, one reason being that it is the Holy Spirit who, residing in you, prays with your heart the very prayers He himself inspired. If you wish, you can add an “Our Father”, a “Hail Mary,” and a “Glory be”, or some other of your favorite prayers. You can only deepen your prayer, praying with the Holy Spirit’s help.
For this project—TO PRAY DAILY IN THE WAY WE SHOULD—I used THE NEW JERUSALEM BIBLE, published by Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10103; printed In the United States of America, Copyright c 1985 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd. and Doubleday & Company, Inc
You will notice that the name the Psalms use for God is “Yahweh” most of the time; sometimes Yahweh” is used together with “God”. This was so used because of the deep respect the Jewish creators of the Psalms had for the sacred name of God.
Finally, who might use this prayer book? Every one and anyone who wishes to pray like they should, especially families, groups, the shut-ins, the hospitalized, those in prisons, those in institutions of learning. In a word, any one who wants to, no matter what your religious beliefs are: God is a God of all nations and peoples, as well as for all nations and peoples. He sent his son for us all.
One more thought. Some might be inspired and motivated to cultivate more deeply the spirit of prayer of our Lord. After his baptism, He was led by the Spirit into the desert and spent 40 days and nights in prayer. So I have added nine more days to make it: Days 1 to 40. Symbolically, in this way you too will deepen your spirit of prayer. And just as Jesus through this prayer grew in the knowledge of what his Father wanted him to do and how to accomplish his mission resolutely, so too will you.
(After you have finished the first forty days, start on the next, and so on! The spirit and resolve you thus acquire will permeate your whole life.
A short portion from Psalm 9 will exemplify and conclude my Introduction to TO PRAY DAILY IN THE WAY WE SHOULD:
“I thank you, Yahweh, with all my heart;
I rejoice and exult in you,
I sing praise to your name, Most High.
You have upheld the justice of my cause
as righteous judge.
Those who acknowledge your name rely on you,
you never desert those who seek you, Yahweh.”
I wish to thank my Confreres and Friends who encouraged me to produce this little work. But one Confrere I owe extra thanks: Father Gerald Keindel C.Ss.R, who, no matter what work he was doing at his computer, he would drop it immediately and come to help me out each time I had problems (and they were many) with my computer in producing this work. He helped me most graciously and generously with his time—always with a smile!
John Molnar C.Ss.R.
Redemptorist Retirement Community
9810 – 165 Street
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada