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Author Topic: Is "structured" prayer strictly optional?  (Read 1499 times)

dark lancer

Is "structured" prayer strictly optional?
« on: November 01, 2010, 02:35:am »
So I'm in this Catholic prayer and faith sharing group or whatever they're calling it (it is NOT a Bible study, as the facilitator says every time I refer to a Bible passage not specifically mentioned in the accompanying book).  It's already been established that no one is going to abandon the heresy of universalism (I'm not counted since I don't espouse it anyway), and the facilitator likes to brag about his Charismatic gift of tongues, if that says anything about what kind of group it is.

Back in the first week of the group meetings I mentioned that I pray part of the Divine Office every day (with the intention of eventually praying all of the hours each day) along with the Rosary and usually a novena to some saint for various intentions.  I'm one of a few in the group who pray a daily Rosary (or try to--as one woman says, "the angels finish it for me," and to paraphrase another "while other thoughts race through my mind, which I am fine with because that's how God learns what's on my mind"), but aside from that the people in the group do things like pray while driving or make up their own prayers spontaneously. 

The accompanying book often suggests praying one Psalm a day, so I pitched to seemingly deaf ears the use of the Divine Office as an opportunity to not only pray several Psalms a day but to be conscious of God throughout the day.  My suggestions have often been directly or indirectly rejected on the basis that God does not listen to "structured" prayers like the Divine Office or Rosary so much as "what comes from the heart," as it were, and that such prayers are entirely optional for a person wanting to pray to God and should be abandoned if a person does not feel called to or comfortable with those forms of prayer.  Most people in the group seem fine with the "thank you God for this," "God please do that for me," "God please help that one out" style of prayer.  Someone once referred to Matthew 6:7 about the Rosary and Divine Office, which is ironic because the facilitator described his gift of tongues as standing up and speaking incoherently during whatever service he attends at the diocesan Charismatic Renewal center.

I was under the impression that prayer worked something along the lines of concentrating on whatever Psalm or mystery is being prayed while reciting prayers and not simply reading aloud whatever is in the Office, Bible, or reciting a Hail Mary for the Rosary.  From my own spiritual practices I have often gained an inexplicable understanding or insight of some issue or Scriptural verse.  Whatever the traditional Catholic school of thought on prayer is I will probably not learn from this group, especially since the book we're using includes such gems as the prayer litany of the anonymous US Civil War soldier and a suggestion to learn about prayer traditions from other religions.  Are meditation and traditional forms of prayer like the Divine Office and Rosary preferred or can prayer just be any series of thoughts of or directed to God?


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Re: Is "structured" prayer strictly optional?
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2010, 05:47:am »
Prayer just means talking to God.  The Divine Office is part of the public prayer of the Church.  Private prayer can be done however one likes.  What should not be done is pull in stuff like Eastern Meditation.  One could pray a "Protestant" prayer if there is nothing unCatholic in it, but there are plenty of Catholic prayers already, so that really shouldn't be necessary.

Also, Christ told us the preferred form of personal prayer to God: The Our Father.

As long as it's not something nutty, the important thing is that you pray, not how you pray.  Recitation without meditation is fine.  When we ask someone for something or thank them, we don't necessarily meditate, and we can do the same when we talk to God.   It doesn't have to be soul-touching and relevatory.  We can just say "Hi" or "thanks for everything" or "can you help me with this".

Read the CE entry on prayer; it will probably answer most of your questions.

In fact, consider printing it out and bringing it to your group.


Re: Is "structured" prayer strictly optional?
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2010, 06:43:pm »
If I may add, I've read that several structured prayers are necessary to be learned by a necessity of precept, including the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Apostle's Creed (see the section An Abridgement of Christian Doctrine in the republished 1962 Roman Missal). The Revised Baltimore Catechism No. 2 said that Catholics also ought to know the Confiteor, the Glory Be, and the Acts of Faith, Hope, Charity and Contrition (Q. 486).

A Catholic should incorporate the traditional/structured prayers into his prayer life, although there is nothing wrong with using our own words to pray to God, as that is encouraged as well.
"It preaches that not only in civil affairs, which is not Our concern here, but also in religion, God has given every individual a wide freedom to embrace and adopt without danger to his salvation whatever sect or opinion appeals to him on the basis of his private judgment.  The apostle Paul warns us against the impiety of these madmen" (Pope Leo XII, Ubi Primum, n. 12).

"Likewise, peace is rooted in respect for religious freedom, which is a fundamental and primordial aspect of the freedom of conscience of individuals and of the freedom of peoples.  It is important that everywhere in the world every person can belong to the religion of his choice and practise it freely without fear" (Benedict XVI, Address to Five New Ambassadors, 18 May 2006).

Virgil the Roman

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Re: Is "structured" prayer strictly optional?
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2010, 06:48:pm »
Sure. Pray an Ave and then an Ave. Perhaps, also, one could pray in one's own words.

 I like to pray an Ave and Pater; slowly and very intentionally, deliberately meaningful, and carefully. And usually, I will implore God's holy mercy and forgiveness, with some words of Psalm 50 included. 

I am merely sharing, what I normally do; particularly, prior to Holy Mass. :)
« Last Edit: November 01, 2010, 07:00:pm by Virgil the Roman »
Kindly keep me in your rosary and prayer intentions; especially as I am looking for full-time employment . . .

β€œIn life and in death, keep close to Jesus and give yourself into his faithful keeping; He alone can help you when all others fail you.”
β€” Thomas a Kempis

 GOD bless YOU & YOURS! And may you have every good and blessing from God! Be BLESSED and KNOW that God LOVES you!

Non habemus papam.


Re: Is "structured" prayer strictly optional?
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2010, 08:50:pm »
Mass is the ultimate prayer to God and it's totally structured. The divine office is also the official prayer of the bride to God so it's hard to make a case against organized prayer.

The latest Manual of indulgences encourages ejaculatory prayer which  the church enriches with a partial indulgence under some conditions.

So both are important, yeah. Sounds like the group is leaning too far the other way though.
"I suppose the greatest reform of our time was that carried out by St Pius X: surpassing anything, however needed, that the Council will achieve." -- JRR Tolkien, letter to his son Michael, 1 November 1963


Re: Is "structured" prayer strictly optional?
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2010, 06:46:am »
Purely curious - why do you keep going to this group?


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Re: Is "structured" prayer strictly optional?
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2010, 09:23:am »
The only structured prayer that's required as a precept of the Church is holy Mass (or the Divine Liturgy) on Sundays. The Office and Rosary may be very strongly recommended, but they can't be considered required unless the Church imposes them by precept.
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