"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; 
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds;
and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. — Luke 11:9-10

Prayer is about an individual’s relationship with God.  When using the word “prayer”, it often conjures up images or memories of formulaic recitations within a formal religious service setting. While this is one type of prayer, it is not the only one and it isn’t the whole story!

What is the right way to pray?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. — 

Philippians 4:6

Prayer makes us ready to experience the warm embrace of God’s love.  Sometimes it is easy, and at other times, it is hard and challenging.

There are many web-based resources about prayer.

Why Do We Pray – Fr William Barry SJ – challenges us to think about paradox in our prayer lives and relationship with God.

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  

That is certainly one way of communal prayer but by no means is it the only way.  There is no right or wrong way to pray.

So what is needed?

Time. Time allows us to nourish our souls with prayer.  Time to pray as part of a regular routine is up to each individual – it could be as you wake up, as you go to sleep, as you go for a walk or as you sit – prayer can happen at any point in the day and you can pray for as long or as little as you feel is sufficient to feed your spiritual life.

Is there a “correct” position to adopt when praying?

NO! When participating with others in formal prayer or Mass liturgies, there are likely to be expected or traditional positions (ie kneeling, standing). It is more important to “be” in a comfortable space that allows for focus – and we all do this in different ways. Some ideas include (but are not limited to):

  • Some create a quiet space in their environment
  • Some create a quiet space in their minds
  • Some create a visual focus – a candle, a cross
  • Some use a book, beads or other aides to prayer
  • Some engage in prayerful mediation
  • Some maintain a prayer journal
  • Some  use music and sing their prayers
  • Some use action – faith in action

What should prayers be about?

Again, there is no right or wrong answer to this. It is very easy to become distracted and concentrating on prayer can be a challenge.   Prayer can be about any topic, experience, person etc…

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

 Colossians 4:2

Some broad groupings that are likely to be relevant to most people are:

  • Prayers of Praise – the Psalms are a good source of these if you are stuck!
  • Prayers of Thanksgiving – family, friends, community, education, freedom etc…
  • Prayers of Petition – when people have asked for prayers, individual personal petitions etc
  • Prayers about the Kingdom of God – the Global Church, Church and world leaders, international and local missionary works, evangelisation, schools, social injustice, the persecuted and those in any kind of need etc
  • Prayers for the people in your life – partners, children, parents, siblings, family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, our local communities etc…

Here are some ideas of things to pray for during this time and some Bible references you might find helpful:

  • Give thanks to God for his unending love for us even in hard circumstances (Psalm 63:3)
  • Pray for our government and our leaders around the world (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
  • Give thanks for NHS medical and support staff (James 1:17)
  • Pray for key workers in healthcare, social care, delivering food, working in supermarkets, government and emergency services.
  • Pray for those who are unwell at the moment and people who are isolated and lonely (James 5:13)
  • Pray for people who are worried for themselves or loved ones and for those who are bereaved (1 Peter 5:7)
  • Pray for ourselves to trust the Lord and rely on him during this time and for fellowship among the church even when we are apart (Colossians 3:16)
  • Pray for others around the world in affliction and in need (Romans 12:12-13)

Traditional Prayers

The Lord’s Prayer

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.

The Lord’s Prayer ‘is truly the summary of the whole of the Gospel’. (CCC 2761)

The Sign of the Cross

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

The sign of the cross is both an action and a statement of faith. A physical reminder of our redemption in the cross and an expression of faith in the Trinity.

Glory be to the Father

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be world without end. Amen.

The doxology is a short expression of praise of the Trinity dating back top the Early Church. It is used extensively in the Liturgy of the Hours and in devotions such as the Rosary.

The Hail Mary

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

The first part of the Hail Mary is biblical drawn from Gabriel’s greeting to Mary at the Annunciation and Elizabeth’s greeting at the Visitation. The second part of the prayer has its origins in 15th century Italy.

Angel of God

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here,
ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide.

The prayer is based on one by Reginald of Canterbury in the early 12th century.

Eternal Rest

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Based on the Entrance Antiphon of the Mass for the Dead.

The Magnificat

My soul glorifies the Lord,
My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness;
Henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
The Almighty works marvels for me.
Holy his name!
His mercy is from age to age,
on those who fear him.
He puts forth his arm in strength
And scatters the proud hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones
And raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things,
Sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, his servant,
remembering his mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his sons for ever.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be, world without end.

Mary’s song of praise was first sung to her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:46-55). It is sung daily at Evening Prayer.

The Benedictus

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel! He has visited his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up for us a mighty saviour
In the house of David his servant,
As he promised by the lips of holy men,
Those who were his prophets from of old.
A saviour who would free us from our foes,
From the hands of all who hate us.
So his love for our fathers is fulfilled
And his holy covenant remembered.
He swore to Abraham our father to grant us,
that free from fear, and saved from the hands of our foes,
we might serve him in holiness and justice
all the days of our life in his presence.
As for you, little child,
you shall be called a prophet of God, the Most High.
You shall go ahead of the Lord
To prepare his ways before him.
To make known to his people their salvation
Through forgiveness of all their sins,
The loving-kindness of the heart of our God
Who visits us like the dawn from on high.
He will give light to those in darkness,
Those who dwell in the shadow of death,
And guide us into the way of peace.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.

The Canticle of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, is taken from Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:68-79) It is sung daily at Morning Prayer.

The Te Deum

We praise you, O God: We acclaim you as Lord.
Everlasting Father,
All the world bows down before you.
All the angels sing your praise,
The hosts of heaven and all the angelic powers,
All the cherubim and seraphim
Call out to you in unending song:
Holy, Holy, Holy,
Is the Lord God of angel hosts!
The heavens and the earth are filled
With your majesty and glory.

The glorious band of apostles,
The noble company of prophets,
The white-robed army who shed their blood for Christ,
All sing your praise.
And to the ends of the earth
Your holy Church proclaims her faith in you:
Father, whose majesty is boundless,
Your true and only son, who is to be adored,
The Holy Spirit sent to be our Advocate.

You, Christ, are the king of glory,
Son of the eternal Father.
When you took our nature to save mankind
You did not shrink from birth in the Virgin’s womb.
You overcame the power of death
Opening the Father’s kingdom to all who believe in you.
Enthroned at God’s right hand in the glory of the Father,
You will come in judgement according to your promise.
You redeemed your people by your precious blood.
Come, we implore you, to our aid.
Grant us with the saints
a place in eternal glory.

Lord, save your people
And bless your inheritance.
Rule them and uphold them
For ever and ever.
Day by day we praise you:
We acclaim you now and to all eternity.
In your goodness, Lord, keep us free from sin.
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
May your mercy always be with us, Lord,
For we have hoped in you.
In you, Lord, we put our trust:
We shall not be put to shame.

4th century in origin; possibly by St Nicetas of Remesiana

The Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, be my sanctification.
Body of Christ, be my salvation.
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins.
Water of Christ’s side, wash out my stains.
Passion of Christ, my comfort be.
O good Jesu, listen to me.
In Thy wounds I fain would hide,
N’er to be parted from Thy side,
Guard me, should the foe assail me.
Call me when my life shall fail me.
Bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy saints to sing Thy love,
World without end.

Act of Contrition

O my God,
I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins because of thy just punishments,
but most of all because they offend Thee, my God,
who art all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more
and to avoid the near occasion of sin.

Nunc Dimittis

Now, Lord, you have kept your word: let your servant go in peace. With my own eyes I have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The Canticle of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32) is sung daily at Night Prayer.

Jesus Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The Jesus Prayer is esteemed by the Eastern Churches. It is a prayer to be said throughout the day.

Prayer for Peacemakers

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, unity;
where there is doubt, faith,
where there is error, truth
where there is despair, hope;
where there is sadness, joy;
where there is darkness, light.

Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is dying that we are born to eternal life.

The prayer has been attributed to St Francis of Assisi but was probably written in the early 20th century.

Act 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 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.

Prayer for the Household

Hear us, Lord,
and send your angel from heaven
to visit and protect,
to comfort and defend
all who live in this house.

This prayer was formerly used as the conclusion to the Rite of Sprinkling at the principal Mass on Sundays.

The Angelus

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to thy word.

Hail Mary.

V. And the Word was made flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord,
thy grace into our hearts.
that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, thy 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 Angelus is traditionally said three times a day: 6am, 12 noon, 6pm.

The Regina Caeli

Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia!
for he whom you were worthy to bear, alleluia!
has risen as he said, alleluia!
Pray for us to God, alleluia!

Let us pray;
O God, who through the resurrection of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
did vouchsafe to give joy to the world.
grant, we beseech you, that through his Mother, the Virgin Mary,
we may obtain the joys of everlasting life.
Through the same Christ our Lord.

The Regina Caeli replaces the Angelus in the Easter Season and when it is also sung at Night Prayer.

Salve Regina

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears!
Turn, then, most gracious Advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us,
and after this, our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.

The Salve Regina is one of the Marian Anthems sung at Night Prayer.

Alma Redemptoris Mater

Mother of Christ! hear thou thy people’s cry,
Star of the deep and portal of the sky!
Mother of him who thee from nothing made,
Sinking we strive, and call to thee for aid:
Oh, by that joy which Gabriel brought to thee,
Thou Virgin, first and last, let us thy mercy see.

The Alma Redemptoris Mater is sung at the end of Night Prayer in Advent.

Ave Regina Caelorum

Hail, Queen of Heaven, beyond compare,
To whom the angels homage pay;
Hail, Root of Jesse, Gate of Light
That opened for the world’s new Day

Rejoice, O Virgin unsurpassed,
In whom our ransom was begun,
Fo all your loving children pray
To Christ, our Saviour, and your Son.

The Ave Regina Caelorum is sung at the end of Night Prayer in Lent. This English version is by Stanbrook Abbey.

Under Your Protection

We fly to thy protection, O holy Mother of God.
Despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us always from all dangers
O glorious and blessed Virgin.

This prayer, first found in a Greek papyrus, c. 300, is the oldest known prayer to the Virgin.

The Memorare

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins, my Mother.
To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions,
but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

A 16th century version of a longer 15th century prayer.

Come, Creator Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator come, From your bright heavenly throne!
Come, take possession of our souls, And make them all your own.

You who are called the Paraclete, Best gift of God above,
The living spring, the living fire, Sweet unction, and true love!

You who are sevenfold in your grace, Finger of God’s right hand,
His promise, teaching little ones To speak and understand!

O guide our minds with your blessed light, With love our hearts inflame,
And with your strength which never decays Confirm our mortal frame.

Far from us drive our hellish foe True peace unto us bring,
And through all perils guide us safe Beneath your sacred wing.

Through you may we the Father know, Through you the eternal Son
And you the Spirit of them both Thrice-blessed three in one.

All glory to the Father be, And to the risen Son;
The same to you, O Paraclete, While endless ages run.

Come, Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!

Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.

You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;

In our labour, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend:

Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.

Come, Holy Spirit

V. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
R. And kindle in them the fire of your love.

V. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And you will renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit,
did instruct the hearts of your faithful,
grant that by that same Holy Spirit,
we may be truly wise, and ever rejoice in your consolation,
Through Christ our Lord.

This prayer is a compilation of a number of liturgical texts drawn from the Mass and Office of Pentecost and the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit.

Act of Faith

O my God,
I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins
and that he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches
because you have revealed them who are eternal truth and wisdom,
who can neither deceive nor be deceived.
In this faith I intend to live and die.

Act of Hope

O Lord God,
I hope by your grace for the pardon of all my sins
and after life here to gain eternal happiness
because you have promised it
who are infinitely powerful, faithful, kind, and merciful.
In this hope I intend to live and die.

Act of Love

O Lord God,
I love you above all things
and I love my neighbour for your sake
because you are the highest, infinite and perfect good,
worthy of all my love.
In this love I intend to live and die.