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Praying when we are at a loss for words

Jeffrey Bruno

When a situation leaves us feeling helpless, sometimes the simplest prayers are best

Dear Katrina,

There are many times when I hear a sad story of a person in the news. I want to pray for them with all my heart but I am at a loss for words. Especially if a child is involved, I want to pray for the child to overcome the injury or illness. Sometimes I hear a story of a child’s death at the hands of another, and I want to pray to God to comfort the parents and let them know that the child is in heaven. Can you offer any prayers that I can say?

Thank you,




Lent is the perfect time to add spiritual works of mercy to your prayer life. One of those works of mercy is to pray for the living and the dead. Sometimes the news brings us the most horrible stories, and the desire to pray for those involved is actually a very healthy reaction. Better to pray than let the news throw us into despair.

The easiest thing to do is simply offer a Hail Mary for those involved. You don’t have to get bogged down in the composition of the prayer. The Church has done all the hard work for us. A recited prayer with heartfelt intention is the perfect antidote for being at a loss for words.

You can write down the names of the people you read about in the news and pray for them all at once in the evening if you like or you can add them into a decade of the Rosary — “…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners and [that person who was in the news] now and at the hour of our death.”  

Another remedy to that helpless feeling of being at a loss for words is the Divine Mercy chaplet. This simple chaplet takes 10 minutes to pray and makes a perfect Lenten daily exercise due to its focus on Christ’s Passion and His mercy. The Divine Mercy really is a truly extraordinary prayer.

“For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and all the whole world.”

Sometimes, the best prayer to utter from the heart is simply, “Lord, have mercy…”

Don’t worry so much about finding the perfect words to pray. As I said, the Church has a prayer for everything. As long as you pray and you pray with intention, no prayer is wasted.


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