When visiting a military hospital a bishop was surprised by the beautiful faith of one soldier.
However, what is most important in a person’s prayer life is the sincerity of their prayers and not the number of prayers that they say each day. To illustrate this fundamental principal, here is a short story from the book, Anecdotes and Examples Illustrating the Catholic Catechism, featuring a bishop and a soldier.
A bishop who was visiting the sick soldiers in a military hospital, exhorted one of the patients not to forget his morning and night prayers. The soldier replied: “My lord, I do say my prayers the first thing in the morning and the last at night, but only short ones in military fashion.” On the bishop inquiring what were his daily orisons, the man rejoined: “When I wake in the morning, I say: ‘My God, Thy servant is about to get up; have mercy on him.’ And at night when I lay down to rest, I say: ‘My God, Thy servant is going to sleep; have mercy upon him.'” The prelate was touched by this account of the soldier’s devotions, and on leaving he shook hands with him in the kindest manner. Undoubtedly God was well pleased with this man’s simple and sincere prayer. We read in the Gospel that the good thief on the cross, and the publican in the temple prayed in the same manner and they found grace with God.
While we certainly can use prayers that have been passed on to us over the centuries, we should also try to pray to God in our own words, sincerely and honestly.
As the Psalmist summarizes for us, “My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn” (Psalm 51:19).
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