Prayer That Really Is Prayer


When preparing liturgical prayer, there is no need to resort to finding sentimental verses or reflections in books. The Catholic tradition provides patterns and rituals for prayer that is true communal worship, not simply inspiration or meditation.
An easy way to compose a prayer for use as an opening or concluding prayer, or ‘collect’, is to follow the YOU-WHO-DO-THROUGH pattern.
‘YOU’ indicates that we begin by addressing God. There are many ways, simple and profound, to do this which can be varied according to the circumstances. Some possibilities include “Loving God”, “God of Mercy”, “God who heals”, “Father in Heaven”.
Next we name ‘WHO’ God is for us, for example: “Giver of all good gifts”, “You are always ready to forgive”, “Our strength and hope”.
Then we ask God to act, to ‘DO’ something: “Be with us as we gather in your name”, “Comfort those who mourn”, “Grant peace to our troubled world”.
We pray to God in and THROUGH Christ, so our prayer concludes with a simple
“ Through Christ our Lord”, or “ In the name of Jesus your Son”, or a more complex formula such as that used at Mass: “Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” It is so simple to compose a prayer for any occasion using this pattern. “Almighty God, you created the earth and everything in it. Help us always to care for the world you have made for us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”,
“ Compassionate God, you know that our hearts are heavy. Give us strength to face the future and wisdom to know how to act. We pray in the name of Jesus our loving saviour. Amen.”
The traditional liturgical pattern of GATHER-LISTEN-DO-GO provides a failsafe framework for a prayer service. The liturgy should begin with words and rituals that GATHER this group of individuals into a community of worshippers. At Mass the Introductory or Gathering Rite usually consists of an entrance song, greeting, penitential rite, ‘Glory to God’, and the opening prayer. A simple prayer service might begin with the Sign of the Cross, that traditional yet profound symbol which reminds us of who we are and why we are gathered. Its familiar words and gestures mean that everyone present can participate in the liturgy from the beginning.
After gathering, the worshippers LISTEN to God speaking as the scriptures are proclaimed then respond by DOing something – sprinkling with water, asking pardon, blessing, laying on hands, anointing with oil, offering prayers of intercession - according to the time and purpose of the celebration.
The liturgy ends with a blessing and a sending forth as we GO to live out our lives as Christians in the Church and in the world.
Next week: Even MORE tips for doing liturgy simply and well!


Elizabeth Harrington