QUESTION: When the church talks about “daily prayers” what does it mean?
ANSWER: A response to the question above must consider both “prayer” and “prayers.” Prayer is essentially related to communion with God and God with us. It can be accomplished through many forms and in multiple aspects of our daily lives. On the other hand, “prayers” has more to do with what words we use in prayer.
The pre-eminent prayer for Catholics is the celebration of the Eucharist. Or why else would Jesus have said, “Let me solemnly assure you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53)?
The celebration of the Eucharist is where we encounter the word of God proclaimed within the assembly, where we share the Eucharistic body and blood of the Lord, and where the community of Christ’s body is formed and nourished. Because the Eucharist is our prayer and God’s gift, we should want to share in this prayer as often as possible.
The church is also at prayer in each celebration of the sacraments. Their communal character means that they are the prayer of the community even if they are the celebration of only a few (as in reconciliation or anointing of the sick).
The church also gives great emphasis to the prayer form known as the Liturgy of the Hours. Formerly called the Divine Office or the Breviary, it was used almost exclusively by priests and men and women in consecrated life. Now encouraged as the “prayer of Christians,” this blend of psalms, Scripture, other readings and prayers can be a beautiful daily means of dedicating the entire day to the Lord. One-volume editions of this prayer are available.
These are the ways of prayer that are most often described as public or communal prayer. They involve the entire church even if they are said individually. There is also a great body of prayer that is often described as personal or devotional. The rosary is included in this group, although it may be said in common with others. It essentially has a personal character as each person meditates on the mysteries of salvation as the common prayers are said.
Also, “meal prayers” are a familiar form of prayer. This custom was born out of an attempt to relate the table of the Eucharist to the table at which we gather our families. Finally, some form of morning and night prayer is frequently employed to begin and close the day.
While prayer is a universal obligation for all Catholics, how it is accomplished can take many forms. One aspect of prayer that is often overlooked is that of silence and listening. In this prayer we await God’s response, God’s intervention in our lives.
While there are many forms of “daily prayers,” the means by which we establish our daily prayer is a matter of one’s personal commitment. It is extremely important that each of us establishes some daily form of personal communication with God and open our hearts to God’s communication with us.
Father Bober is pastor of St. Kilian Parish in Adams and Cranberry townships.