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Why the shortest prayers can often be the best prayers

PRAY

PUWADON SANG | Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski - published on 09/16/20

It only takes a few seconds to pray a prayer of the heart.

It can be tempting to think that we don’t have time to pray. This comes from a viewpoint that we need to pray for a full hour in order to have the best experience of prayer.

Yet, authentic prayer does not depend on the length of prayer, but on its quality. Some of the best prayers are actually the shortest!

St. Francis de Sales encourages this type of prayer in his Introduction to the Devout Life.

Do you then, my child, aspire continually to God, by brief, ardent upliftings of heart; praise His Excellence, invoke His Aid, cast yourself in spirit at the Foot of His Cross, adore His Goodness, offer your whole soul a thousand times a day to Him, fix your inward gaze upon Him, stretch out your hands to be led by Him…upraise Him in your soul as a standard. In short, kindle by every possible act your love for God, your tender, passionate desire for the Heavenly Bridegroom of souls. 

This type of prayer does not require much effort on our part, as it can be accomplished during our normal everyday tasks. St. Francis de Sales explains the benefit of such prayer by using an example.

When a pilgrim pauses an instant to take a draught of wine, which refreshes his lips and revives his heart, his onward journey is nowise hindered by the brief delay, but rather it is shortened and lightened, and he brings it all the sooner to a happy end, pausing but to advance the better.

One of the most popular short prayers is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” An even shorter version is just saying the name, “Jesus!

A single prayer said with faith and love can be much better than an hour of distracted prayer. This is not to say that a holy hour is bad, but the key in both exercises is praying from the heart.

As you go about your daily business, consider offering to God short prayers that can permeate all your daily activities and bring you closer to God.

12 Short prayers invoking the name of Jesus

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PrayerSpiritual Life
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