In Christianity, there are a multitude of prayers for addressing God. But which one pleases him the most?
“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father Who art in heaven …” (Matthew 6:9)
As St. Cyprian comments in the 3rd century, “For what can be a more spiritual prayer than that which was given to us by Christ, by whom also the Holy Spirit was given to us? … So that to pray otherwise than He taught is not ignorance alone, but also sin.”
The question then follows: How do you properly pray the Our Father since, no doubt, it is the prayer that God prefers? The question is so important that St. Teresa of Avila said that the two daily hours of prayer for the Carmelite nuns were essentially a way to pray the Our Father well, interiorizing all its parts in order to “adorn Christ” with our prayer, because that is part of being Christian.
A good prayer is the one that calls God “Father”
St. Francis de Sales gives us the key to “praying well” — in prayer, as in any other endeavor, “it’s not how grandiose our works are that makes us please God, but the love we do them with. [That is why] the best prayer is that which keeps us so focused on God that we don’t think about ourselves, or about what we are doing” (letter 8 June 1618). To do that, he adds, “it is a good idea to simply walk, plainly and without affectation, to be close to God, to love him, to be united with Him.”
A rather disappointing answer, no doubt, because we would all love to “triumph” in our prayer. But all the spiritual teachers would say that the prayer that most “triumphs” is that which tries the least to do so, and that the best method is to almost have none. “I do as the children do who don’t know how to read, I simply tell God what I want to tell him … Prayer is an impulse of the heart, a simple glance up to heaven, a shout of gratitude and love, both in the midst of suffering and in joy,” said St. Therese of the Child Jesus. The good prayer, the one that reaches God’s heart, the prayer that He prefers, is the one that calls God “Father” in the simplest and most complete way possible.
What about the other prayers?
But aren’t there other prayers that the Church recommends, prayers that they tell us to say? Yes, definitely; the same way that the Church recommends certain pilgrimages or is generous with certain religious practices like wearing the scapular of Mount Carmel or receiving the blessing of the pope.
But all of this, in reality, is still a way for us to learn say well—and above all live well—the Our Father. And the variations of these prayers and these practices correspond to the variations of Church vocations, and each person is invited to find in the school of the saints the road that will allow him or her to enter into this prayer that sums up all the rest: “The Lord’s prayer is, really, a summaryof the entire Gospel … When the Lord had bequeathed this formula of prayer, he added ‘Ask, and it will be given to you’ (Luke 11:9). Therefore, each one of us can address heaven in different prayers according to his or her necessities, but you should always begin with the Lord’s prayer which is still the most fundamental” (Tertullian, De oratione, cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church).
Father Max Huot de Longchamp