Given the nature of this question, it is obviously from someone who wants to know how to pray as a Christian. Perhaps we can help you here at rosarylovers.com.
We have lots of posts on prayer, you should check them out.
Obviously, being that this site is primarily about Mary and her most holy Rosary, most of our posts are about the Rosary.
That said, let’s try to deal with this question from the sincere seeker.
What is Prayer as a Christian?
Prayer is a vital element of being a Christian. Prayer is usually a vital part of being a member of any religion, be it Judaism, Hinduism or Islam.
Prayer in Christianity has its own unique ‘flavour’.
Christians pray to God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Christians pray to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Christians pray to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.
Christians pray to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Christians pray even to the Holy Spirit.
Catholics and Orthodox Christians pray to an even wider variety!
Catholics and Orthodox Christians pray to Mary. (We have LOADS of posts about Mary at Rosary Lovers.)
Catholics and Orthodox Christians pray to the saints and angels (such as St Michael).
We pray to our Guardian angels.
Many Catholics also have a special devotion to St Joseph, the most chaste spouse of the blessed Virgin Mary.
So in Christianity, especially in Catholic/Orthodox Christianity, prayer is directed to a variety of heavenly individuals.
Shouldn’t you just pray to ‘God’?
Muslims and Jews might criticise this approach to prayer as being a form of idolatry. Islam and Judaism do not accept the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
For Muslims and Jews, God is one, end of story. God is not Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is simply God.
Christians don’t share this belief. Christians believe God is an eternal Father, which means he has an eternal Son. The eternal Father and Son live eternally in an infinite communion of Love, which is their Holy Spirit.
Christians believe that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God.
All three are the one God.
And yet they are three distinct persons.
God is one in being and three in persons.
God is one is one way and three in another way.
This means that God can be approached in a variety of ways. God is not approached monolithically in Christianity.
So, as I said before, Christians might pray to the Father, or to the Son, or to the Holy Spirit.
Or Christians might pray to all three, to the Holy Trinity.
Or Christians might just pray to ‘God’, without explicitly meaning any particular person.
What about prayers to the Virgin Mary? Isn’t this wrong?
Christians may also pray to the Virgin Mary, because she is the Mother of God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mary receives our prayers and passes them onto her beloved Son for us. Mary also never ceases to pray for us.
It is not idolatry for Christians to pray to Mary because praying to someone or something is simply talking to them and confiding in them. We do this all the time in our day to day lives with friends, family, etc.
We tell family, friends, spouses how much we love them, rely on them, etc. There is nothing wrong with having this kind of relationship with Mary.
If this were idolatry, then telling your family you love them and rely on them would be idolatry! Which is ridiculous.
God wants us to love our families and God wants us to love his Mother.
Jesus loves his Mother, Mary, and we can never love Mary more than Jesus loves her. We can be quite sure Jesus told his Mother how much he loved her when he was on earth 2000 years ago!
Don’t we want to imitate Jesus in all things? We must walk as he walked.
Just because Mary is in heaven doesn’t mean we cannot talk to her. She hears us because she is in Christ, and Christ hears everything we say.
We can have relationships with any of the heavenly beings. The Apostles Creed states: ‘I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints …’
The communion of saints means that the saints in heaven and those of us alive on earth share a profound communion and fellowship of love with each other.
We on earth would do well to get to know our heavenly brothers and sisters, imitate their virtues and confide in them with our troubles, asking for their prayers.
James 5:16: ‘The effective fervent prayer of a righteous person avails great things.’ So says the Scripture. The saints and angels in heaven are as righteous as it is possible to be, and so their prayers are the best prayers. We should seek their prayers.
What words should I say to God?
Having established who it is we can address in prayer, we now ask what we should say to God. How do we approach him?
1. Use your own words.
You can of course use your own words. There is something very precious about a human soul coming face-to-face with his or her Creator, in words that are perfectly natural.
Every parent loves it when their child starts to speak and talk to them in their own language, using their own chosen words. God is no different here. We ought to make use of our own words in prayer to God, at least sometimes.
This revives our relationship with God, and brings a freshness to our faith in him.
Just this very morning I got up early and tried this very approach to my Heavenly Father. It was a profound and sacred time, and was an immense help and has stayed with me all day.
However, there are some clear dangers to this method if it is the exclusive method of a Christian. The dangers might be some of the following:
- Too much focus on self and your own problems
- The ‘shopping list’ approach: ‘O God, I need help with this, and this, and this. And please do this. Amen.’
- Using phrases/words that are not appropriate: ‘Hey God, how’s it going? You ok?’
- Asking for things that are not in keeping with the revealed will of God: ‘Please God, make me rich. Amen.’
- Praying things that are downright heretical: ‘Father, I thank you Jesus for sending your Son. And Father, thank you for dying on the cross for me, Holy Spirit.’
The way to avoid these common pitfalls is to:
1. Learn what the holy Catholic Church teaches about God and prayer.
2. Often use prayers that have long been used in the holy Catholic Church.
Before approaching a great Monarch, we would expect to receive some clear guidance on how to do this. Should we bow, or prostrate ourselves, or shake their hand, etc.? How should we address them?
God is the same. God is the Great King over all the earth and has given us clear guidance on how to approach him. This guidance is offered to the world by the holy Catholic Church.
2. Use the Church’s Prayers
The most common way to pray, particularly in Catholicism, is to use prayers that the Catholic Church has provided for us.
There is, of course, the Rosary, which we promote at our site Rosary Lovers.
There is the Brown Scapular, a silent prayer to God.
Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses. As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. [Amen.]
ALL Christians, without exception, ought to make GREAT use of this prayer in their lives.
Why? Because Jesus our Lord told us to pray it: ‘When you pray, SAY: OUR FATHER, who art in heaven ….’ etc.
‘When you pray, this is what you are to say.’
This prayer is TWICE recorded in Holy Scripture: Matthew 6 and Luke 11. That’s how important it is for our Christian lives.
3. Attend Mass Often
The single most important prayer offered to God in all the world, and even in the universe, is the Holy Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus. This is the Holy Mass of the Catholic Church.
The Mass is the supreme worship of Almighty God on earth. The Mass is a participation in the Liturgy and worship of God that takes place eternally in heaven. The Mass brings heaven to earth for a time.
In the Mass, the priest and laity offer many words to God, in union with the Body and Blood of Jesus offered for us on the cross.
The Mass, therefore, teaches us how to best approach God. It teaches us great reverence for God. It teaches us humility.
The Mass teaches us prayer and how to pray.
We only ever come to God properly in union with the body and blood of his Son our Lord Jesus. It is only through the holy Offering of Jesus to God that we can ever be accepted by God.
This is the only way for God to hear our prayers.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the greatest school of prayer the Church offers the world.
Many of the great saints in Church history attended Mass every, single day of their lives, in as much as they were able.
The saints were filled with holiness because they were filled with prayer.
But they were filled with prayer because they were filled with the Mass.
4. The Jesus Prayer
A very popular devotion to Jesus is called the Jesus Prayer. It is simply the constant repetition of the words: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
This amazing prayer can be prayed many, many times each day. Monastics often pray it hundreds if not thousands of times a day.
Jesus enters the soul in a very special way through this prayer, and it is a very pleasing prayer to him.
It is helpful to pray this prayer with a Rosary. We recommend this post for help with that.
When all is said and done, the most important thing when it comes to prayer is to actually do it. Imperfect prayers and prayers filled with deficiencies are like jewels if they are offered with a pure and good heart.
God doesn’t look so much at the particulars, but at the heart.
St Gertrude the Great is one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church. She’s the only woman with ‘the Great’ after her name.
She constantly messed up her words in her prayers. Jesus loved her so much and saw that her intentions were so pure that he told her: ‘Don’t worry about messing up your words in your prayers. I’ll present them perfect to my Father.’
God bless you.
Please get in touch if you want to share something or have a question.