A Beginner's Book of Prayer: An Introduction to Traditional Catholic Prayers

A Beginner's Book of Prayer: An Introduction to Traditional Catholic Prayers

by Mr. William G. Storey

ISBN: 9780829427929

Publisher Loyola Press

Published in Christian Books & Bibles/Catholicism

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Sample Chapter


“Be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 5:18–20

This book is a collection of Christian prayers intended for new Catholics and for all others seeking a renewed experience of Catholic prayer. It is meant to give a firm grounding in the Church’s ancient traditions of prayer. It includes prayers drawn from scripture, from the liturgy of the church, from the saints, and from ancient devotional traditions. They are all traditional prayers of the Church. Most of them have been prayed in some form for centuries. Taken together they unfold the paschal mystery—Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, and his continuing presence among us.
This book includes prayers that can be prayed both individually and communally. In a sense these are all communal prayers because they emerge from and draw us into the community of faith that is the Catholic Church. Many of them are explicitly communal. These include the morning and evening prayer in part 3 and several litanies, which are designed to be prayed by couples, families, and other groups of Christians. But these prayers can all be prayed privately as well. They can help an individual develop and sustain a habit of regular daily prayer that draws on the Church’s great traditions and unites the individual with the Communion of Saints. At every instant, our lives reside within the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1), with the Virgin Mary, with all the angels and saints, and in union with every person who prays in Christ and through Christ.

How the Book Is Organized
The first two parts of the book present prayers that are foundational for a life of prayer. They are drawn from scripture and from the Church’s tradition. Many of them can be memorized. One of the best ways to develop a life of prayer is to say prayers over and over again until they become firmly fixed in our minds and hearts.
Part 3 presents morning and evening prayer, and prayers the Church prays during the special seasons of Advent, Christmastide, Lent, and the Easter season. These are derived from the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church’s formal cycle of prayers said five times a day. These prayers can be said by individuals and groups. They can be prayed out loud or silently.
The prayers in parts 4 and 5 center on Jesus. As Christians we are followers of Jesus. We strive to be like him, to understand him, to act as he acts. Jesus is the center of our faith, our Savior and Lord. The prayers in part 5 unfold the paschal mystery—Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection.
Parts 6 and 7 invite us to pray with Mary, the Mother of God and our mother in faith. Devotion to Mary is one of the richest and most spiritually rewarding aspects of Catholic prayer.
Parts 8, 9, and 10 focus on three central aspects of Catholic prayer: praise, repentance, and prayers for the dead.
Part 11 contains short prayers that help us pray constantly throughout the day. The book concludes with some suggested resources for a deepening prayer life.

A School of Prayer
The Catholic Church is a school of prayer. Those who enter it by faith and baptism are immersed in the high priestly prayer of Jesus and filled with the Spirit of prayer who constantly calls out to Abba, our heavenly Father (Galatians 4:6–7). The Holy Trinity is the goal of our existence and the heartland of our prayer.
Jesus was a person of prayer, raised in a nation of prayer, and in a family of prayer. He prayed in the Temple on the three great pilgrimage feasts each year, in the synagogue of Nazareth each Sabbath, and in the midst of his family each day. He learned and prayed the psalms in each of these locales and discovered his mission in life from them.
In the Gospels we also find Jesus at prayer at his baptism, in the company of his disciples, as he performed his exorcisms and miracles of healing, when he chose his twelve apostles, on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration, during the long nights of his public ministry, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the Cross.
St. Paul the Apostle extended this vision of prayer: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and the Church has learned how to apply this teaching in rich and varied ways. The community of faith feels a deep responsibility to teach newcomers to the faith how to pray on the model of Jesus and in the tradition of the Catholic liturgy and piety.
Pope John Paul II said this about the centrality of prayer in the life of the Church:

The Church encounters Christ in prayer in the depths of her being. In this way she discovers the truth of his teachings and assumes his mentality. Seeking to live a personal relationship with Christ, the Church fully realizes the personal dignity of her members. In prayer the Church focuses on Christ; she takes Christ; she takes possession of him, she tastes his friendship, and thus is able to communicate it. Without prayer, all this would be lacking and the Church would have nothing to offer the world. But through the exercise of faith, hope, and charity in prayer, her capacity to communicate Christ is strengthened.1

Prayers for New Catholics
This book is especially useful for introducing new Catholics to the riches of Christian prayer. It can be used to immerse them in a wide variety of prayers and forms of prayer that derive from and lead back to the Church’s cycle of prayer, Sunday Mass in particular. This annual cycle of communal worship unfolds for us the full paschal mystery of Christ.
For candidates and catechumens in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, these forms of prayer should be introduced no later than the first days after the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. Initiation ministers may decide that this prayer book might be useful even before candidates begin their ­formal catechumenate. By exposing them to this tradition of Catholic praying early on, the community of prayer will have enough time to help catechumens make it their own.
Most of us live in Christian families, and know that we are called to common prayer each day. Unfortunately, many of us do not belong to a Christian family or community that cherishes common prayer. In such a case the individual Christian will have to pray in private, so to speak, but in constant awareness of the Communion of Saints.

External and Internal Prayer
Prayers are Spirit-filled gifts that demand to be prayed from the heart. Saying prayers well is a good beginning. But as Spirit-filled gifts they demand to be prayed from the heart. We must allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to inspire us as we recite them, that is, breathe in or through the psalms, readings, and set prayers and so enlighten and inflame our minds and hearts until we gain the mind of Christ.
What we are saying has to be taken into our minds, understood, assented to, appropriated. No matter how holy the words might be in themselves, the words are only empty signs unless they become our very own. Words that are full of meaning created by saints are mere empty formulas when we only say them.
Our personal life of prayer begins with holy words said reverently, then we assent to what we say, and, finally, we embrace the God who is beyond all words. Our prayer is of time but it is also of eternity, external but also internal. It is a matter of words, gestures, and postures but, above all, it is a call from God to enter more and more deeply into the very heart of the Spirit-filled life.

Second-Century Directions for Prayer
Good prayer demands time and energy. Regular daily prayer at set times is not only the backbone of our practice but establishes a consistent pattern of life that supports and nourishes us. Tertullian, an early Church theologian, said this:

The only thing that is prescribed about prayer is to pray always and everywhere. . . . But we do, of course, owe God our obligatory prayers at the beginning and end of each day. It is also fitting that faithful Christians pray before eating or bathing, for the refreshment of the spirit should take precedent over that of the body, just as heavenly matters take precedent over worldly ones.”2

Such prayer requires energy too. Hasty or listless prayer is unworthy of a Christian, an impediment to growth in prayer, and a bad example to all around us. Prayer is a form of spiritual work; it is often hard and requires attention, dedication, and perseverance.
To begin a life of prayer, listen to the wise counsel of Origen, the great Church Father:

“The person who is about to come to prayer should withdraw for a little and prepare himself, and so become more attentive and active for the whole of his prayer. He should cast away all troubling thoughts and remind himself so far as he is able of the Majesty whom he approaches, and that it is impious to approach Him carelessly, sluggishly, and disdainfully; and he should put away all extraneous things. . . .
“Although there are a great many positions for the body, he should not doubt that the position with the hands outstretched and the eyes lifted up is to be preferred before all others, barring any chance circumstances.
“Kneeling is necessary when someone is going to speak against his own sins before God, since he is making supplication for their healing and their forgiveness. . . .
“Now concerning the place, let it be known that every place is suitable for prayer if a person prays well. For “ in every place you shall offer incense to me . . . says the Lord” (Malachi 1:11) . . . but everyone may have a holy place set aside and chosen in his own house, if possible, for accomplishing his prayers in quiet and without distraction. . . .
“And a place of prayer, the spot where believers assemble together is likely to have something gracious to help us, since angelic powers are placed near the throngs of believers, as well as the powers of our Lord and Savior Himself, and the spirits of the saints—I think both of those who have already fallen asleep and clearly those who are still alive. . . . As a result, when the saints are gathered together, there is a double Church, one of men and the other of angels.”3

William G. Storey



1. Foundations of Our Faith

These prayers from Scripture center our prayer on the good news of Jesus Christ. We pray these words through the Holy Spirit, given us in baptism, who dwells in our hearts and prays in us continuously, even when we are not aware of it. When we consciously join the unceasing prayer of the Spirit, we enter a communion of prayer that lifts our hearts to the Father, to the holy ones who have gone before us, and to our fellow Christians across the world.

The Gospel in Brief
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him
might not perish but might have eternal life.
John 3:16 nab

The Word of God
This prologue to John’s Gospel is the foundation of our belief in the Incarnation, the central and distinctive doctrine of Catholic Christianity. This life-giving doctrine is the root of our hope, takes away all fear, and fills us with joy and gratitude for our membership in the people of God!

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.
But to those who did accept him,
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth. John 1:1–5, 10–14 nab

Lord Jesus,
eternal Word of God,
become flesh for our sake,
we accept you and thank you
for all we receive from you.
By your gracious gift, we have every right
to complete confidence in your love for us
and, by believing in your name,
have the power to partake of your divine nature.
Blest are you, O Savior of the world,
now and for ever.

The Word of Life
We declare to you what was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked at and touched with our hands,
concerning the word of life—
this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it,
and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:1–3

The Greatest Commandment
One of the scribes asked Jesus,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28–31 nab

Lord Jesus, teacher of holiness,
your basic law is love of God and neighbor.
Help us to build on these two foundations
without evasion or scrupulosity
until we are recognized as your disciples
in spirit and in truth.
Your reign is a reign for all ages.

The New Commandment
At the Last Supper Jesus said to his disciples,
“I give you a new commandment:
Love one another.
As I have loved you,
so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.” John 13:34–35 nab

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God,
and God abides in them. 1 John 4:16

Lord Jesus, Teacher of Righteousness,
you complete even the great commandments
by giving us the new commandment of love.
Help us to dedicate ourselves to loving and serving
the Body of Christ in this world
in order to find perfect bliss in the next.
You live and reign for ever and ever.

The Gentle Mastery of Christ
Come to me,
all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy,
and my burden light. Matthew 11:28–30 nab

we rejoice in the gifts of love
we have received from the heart of Jesus your Son.
Open our hearts to share his life
and continue to bless us with his love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Roman Missal

The Shepherd Psalm
In the ancient church, Psalm 23 was often prayed during the Easter Vigil as the newly baptized Christians emerged from the font, were sealed with the Spirit, and processed into the congregation of the faithful for the Holy Eucharist. It expresses our confidence in the Lord’s protection and encourages us to rejoice in our baptismal waters, the anointing of the Spirit, and our presence at the welcome table of the Eucharist and the eucharistic community.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures you let me graze;
    to safe waters you lead me;
    you restore my strength.
You guide me along the right path
    for the sake of your name.
Even when I walk through a dark valley,
    I fear no harm for you are at my side;
    your rod and staff give me courage.
You set a table before me
    as my enemies watch;
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Only goodness and love will pursue me
    all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    for years to come. nab

Psalm Prayer
Lord Jesus, shepherd of your Church,
we thank you for your guidance and protection
from the beginning of our lives to the end.
As the host of the eucharistic table,
we feast in your presence
as we wait for the welcome table of eternity.
Your reign is a reign for all ages.

Prayer of Commitment
Lord Jesus, our Messiah,
the reflection of God’s glory
and the exact imprint of God’s very being:
We entrust our lives to you
by renewing the promises of our baptism,
our commitment to our Church community,
and our desire to do your holy will,
now and always, and for ever and ever.

2. Basic Christian Prayers

These basic prayers are the foundation for a Christian prayer life. They can be memorized and said each day with great care, reverence, and personal commitment.

The Sign of the Cross

“Invest and guard each of your members with this victorious sign, and nothing will harm you.”
St. Ephrem of Syria (ca. 306–373)

The sign of the cross—from head to chest, left shoulder to right shoulder—signifies Jesus’ passion and death. The words assert our belief and trust in the Holy Trinity.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son,     and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed
The Apostles’ Creed is the most ancient and fundamental statement of our belief. It is a prayer that grounds our faith in the Trinity. It says three times, “I believe in . . .” Believing in is a lot more meaningful than believing that. Believing in is an act of surrender to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of faith, hope, and love. Its origin lies in the ancient baptismal practice of the church wherein converts were immersed three times in the baptismal pool as they confessed the three persons of the Holy Trinity. We pray it daily as a renewal of our baptismal vows.

I believe in God the Father almighty,
    creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, died, and was buried;
    he descended to the dead.
    On the third day he rose again;
    he ascended into heaven,
    he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
    and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
    the holy Catholic Church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting. Amen. ELLC

The Lord’s Prayer

“I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.”
Ephesians 3:14–15

Jesus told us to address God as he did: as Abba (“Dearest Father” in Aramaic). The Lord’s Prayer, also known as the “Our Father,” is a model of prayer that contains all the basic themes of Christian prayer. Already in the first century it had the familiar conclusion called the doxology: “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.”

Older Version
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;
for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Newer Version
Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name,
    your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
        on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
    as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
    and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
    now and for ever. Amen. ELLC

The Lesser Doxology
This “doxology,” or act of praise, in honor of the Holy Trinity is used frequently in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, and in other forms of private prayer.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. ELLC

Alternate Version
Praise God, the Abba bearing love;
Praise God, the Servant from above;
Praise God, the Paraclete we share:
O triune God, receive our prayer.4

The Greater Doxology
This is an ancient form of praise to the Holy Trinity that is used frequently at Mass in the Roman rite and at Morning Prayer in the Byzantine rite.

Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to God’s people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
 we worship you, we give you thanks,
 we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
 have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
 receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High.
 Jesus Christ,
 with the Holy Spirit,
 in the glory of God the Father. Amen. ELLC

Hail Mary
The Hail Mary is composed of two quotations from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel (1:28 and 1:42) and an addition from sixteenth-century usage. It praises both Mary and Christ. The Hail Mary plays a major role in the holy Rosary, the most popular of Marian devotions. It is also used three times a day during the recitation of the Angelus.

    Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you.
    Blessed are you among women,
    and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
    Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
     now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The Angelus
The Franciscans created this daily devotion in the thirteenth century to commemorate the incarnation of Christ with the cooperation of Mary, his mother and ours. Traditionally it is said three times a day—at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m.

The angel of the Lord brought the good news to Mary,
~And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
~Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
I am the Lord’s servant;
~Let it happen as the Lord wills.
Hail, Mary, full of grace. . . .
The Word was made flesh,
~And dwelt among us.
Hail, Mary, full of grace. . . .
Pray for us, holy Mother of God,
~That we may become worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
Pour forth, O Lord, your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the incarnation
    of Christ your Son
was made known by the message of an angel,
may by his passion and cross
be brought to the glory of his resurrection;
through the same Christ our Lord.

The Queen of Heaven
In place of the Angelus, we pray this anthem three times a day during the fifty days of Easter.

Rejoice, O Queen of heaven, alleluia!
~For the Son you bore, alleluia!
Has arisen as he promised, alleluia!
Pray for us to God the Father, alleluia!
Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, alleluia!
~For the Lord has really risen, alleluia!
Let us pray:
Gracious God,
you brought joy into the world
through the resurrection of your dear Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ.
Through the prayers of his mother, the Virgin Mary,
may we obtain the joys of everlasting life.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love
My God, I believe in you,
I trust in you, I love you above all things,
with all my heart and mind and strength.
I love you because you are supremely good
    and worth loving;
and because I love you,
I am sorry with all my heart for offending you.
Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.

A Universal Prayer for Peace
Mother Teresa asked that all people of goodwill pray this at noon each day.

Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill my heart, my world, my universe.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910–1997)

Grace at Meals
Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts,
which we are about to receive from your bounty;
through Christ, Our Lord.
We give you thanks, almighty God, for all your blessings;
you live and reign, for ever and ever.
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God,
rest in peace. ~Amen.

Daily Offering to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
O my God!
I offer you all my actions of this day
for the intentions and the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart,
by uniting them to its infinite merits,
and I wish to make reparation for my sins
by casting them into the furnace of its merciful love.
O my God!
I ask you for myself and for those I hold dear
the grace to fulfill your holy will perfectly,
to accept for love of you
the joys and sorrows of this passing life,
so that we may one day be united in heaven
for all eternity. Amen.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897)

Prayer of Abandonment to God
This prayer was composed by Blessed Charles de Foucauld (1858–1916), the martyred founder of the Little Bothers and the Little Sisters of Jesus, two of the new contemplative orders of the twentieth century.

I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures—
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father. Amen.

Excerpted from "A Beginner's Book of Prayer: An Introduction to Traditional Catholic Prayers" by Mr. William G. Storey. Copyright © 0 by Mr. William G. Storey. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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