I overheard my children playing that age-old game “What would you want to take with you if you were stranded on a desert island?” Their version was a little bit different, having to do more with a new reality television show they have heard about (not seen). It went more like, “What one thing would you take with you if you were dropped naked in the middle of the rain forest?” A little bit concerned, I decided to jump into the conversation. I said I would take my rosary, since a knife or matches or a bow and arrows would be of no help to me; however, a can of Bullfrog Suntan Lotion and Insect Repellent would be helpful, I’m sure. In such a situation, which I never plan to be in, only a miracle and God himself could save me!
Then my mind starting going elsewhere, for the thought of being stranded in the rainforest was not a pleasant one. Eventually, I asked, “If you could memorize only one prayer, which prayer would it be?” Of course this question is about as ridiculous as the stranded question. Neither one is a possibility. Still, it made for a good conversation.
I thought this would be a difficult question. I have lots of prayers I enjoy praying. Along with the basic Catholic prayers, I recite the Memorare every day for the many intentions for which others ask me to pray (Our Lady can keep them all straight better than I can). Moreover, I love litanies, especially Our Lady’s Litany and the Litany to the Most Precious Blood. I read most everyday St. Thomas Moore’s Godly Meditation which he wrote while a prisoner in the tower of London. On days I don’t recite this prayer, I read the Universal Prayer attributed to Pope Clement XI. They are great prayers. All day long, I recite different ejaculations; among my favorites are “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine,” “Jesus, have mercy,” and “Lord, give me the patience to endure my blessings” (I am not sure that this is an official one, but my mother always said it, and now that I am a mother, I totally get it). I also rely on saintly friends to get me through the day, especially St. Anne and St. Dominic Savior (being a homeschooling mom). Nonetheless, every night, an Act of Contrition has to be made. There are just so many great prayers out there. I don’t know if I could “survive” with just one.
My children, however, had no trouble answering this question. They kept it simple – I guess this is the reason Jesus told us we had to become like little children. Most said the one prayer they would just have to memorize is the Lord’s Prayer.
“Why?” I asked, a bit taken aback at how quickly they answered.
“Because it is the prayer Jesus taught us, so it has to be the best!”
Touché. They got me with their simple wisdom. Yet a few declared the Hail Mary to be the one prayer they would want to keep memorized. And my 3 and a half year old said “The Bless Us Prayer.” It took the rest of us a little while for us to understand that he meant Grace, which makes sense to his little mind because we can’t eat until we pray, and he loves eating! I found it the most difficult answering my own question. So, since I have already made a short story long, I decided to come up with my own Top Ten List of Favorite and Necessary Prayers. Unlike David Letterman, however, I will start at the top. Ready? Here we go…
#1 The Lord’s Prayer – my children were right – it is the perfect prayer. Simple yet complex, books have been written on it with many meditations and studies on it. Only Jesus Himself could come up with such a prayer.
#2 The Hail Mary – after all, it is always good to have mom on your side, especially God’s mother and especially at the hour of our death. Amen!
#3 The Doxology, aka the Glory Be – This short prayer said before even the most menial tasks has the power to sanctify them. What an easy way for an ordinary person to take an ordinary day and, by God’s good grace, make it holy.
These are the most basic Catholic prayers which we all should have memorized. They also make up the basic prayers of the rosary, one of the most powerful weapon Catholics have in our spiritual arsenal. Not a bad start to my list, huh? Here’s where you may start to disagree with me, though.
#4 One of the angel prayers, either the St. Michael Prayer or Angel of God prayer – during times of temptation or confusion, our angel friends can be such a huge help. I lean more towards the Angel of God prayer since it has been an extra blessing for the little ones in my house in warding off bad dreams and other scary things in the middle of the night.
#5 The Act of Contrition – for the times when we neglected to say the angel prayer or tempers flared before words of prayer. An examination of conscience is the best thing we can do before bed, and though simply telling God I am sorry is enough, the Act of Contrition places the words on my tongue more elegantly than I could ever say it myself. Just think about what you are saying!
#6 The Soul of Christ – written by St. Ignatius of Loyola, I can think of no better prayer to pray upon receiving Holy Communion. It is among my favorite of all prayers. Just saying it gives me a greater desire for union with God and reminds me always of my ultimate goal.
#7 Grace – my three year old was right, too – while we may be able to eat with saying Grace, it is so important to develop an attitude of gratitude. We should always thank God for all He has given us; Grace is just a start. We should never take anything God has given us for granted.
#8 A creed, Apostles or Nicene – along with having the benefit of having the tenets of our faith memorized, saying a creed can increase the virtue of faith within us. We can never have too much faith!
#9 The Divine Mercy Chaplet – in our day and age, God’s mercy and compassion is sorely needed. We ought to be praying for ourselves and others. At 3:00, the Passion hour, remember our Lord’s great love for us and ask His forgiveness.
#9 The Angelus – a lost practice of faithful lay Catholics, this is one I learned in the convent. A beautiful reminder of the great gift of the Incarnation, the Angelus sanctifies our day by having us stop right in the middle of it to pray.
#10 Scripture – of course you can’t memorize all of it, but there are definitely parts that probably really speak to you. After all, the Bible is basically God’s conversation with us. Prayer is our conversation with God. Maybe memorize a psalm; the 23rd is a popular one, but my favorite is Psalm 139. I do not have it all memorized, but I know by heart the parts that are most meaningful and encouraging to me. I, likewise, have other verses memorized that aid me in the tests and trails of life, as well as the joys and awe moments. Scripture is a beautiful prayer to be prayed, and it should be, a bit every day.
So that’s my top 10 list. Do you agree? What did I leave out that you put on your list? What did I have on my list that you think is not so necessary to memorize? I would be interested to know what you think.
Copyright 2013 Kelly Guest