Yesterday, I printed a question from a mother who wondered if I knew of a prayer she could teach her children when an ambulance goes by. Knowing of none, I did some research but all I could find was the testimony of moms who said a Hail Mary. Deciding to go fishing for something else, I posted the question. Sure enough, several moms suggested the Hail Mary.

            I must admit that because I tend to hear things said here through the ears of my evangelical readers as well as my Catholic readers, I cringed. That sounds awful, because I'm not ashamed of saying Hail Mary, but I know there's a misunderstanding and judgment that will be levied by some readers. But as so often happens, I see God open a door for further discussion. That door came in the form of a comment:

            Instead of a memorized prayer, I'd just voice a heartfelt prayer... that God would heal those who were hurt, that doctors would have wisdom and skill in treating them, and that this event might draw those people involved into an even deeper relationship with and dependence on the Father. Because of my own evangelical background/former prejudices, I read that as a rebuke: a memorized prayer lacks authenticity. I responded:

You are assuming that a memorized prayer cannot be heartfelt. This is a common misconception among Evangelicals - that traditional prayers are somehow not as worthy as conversational prayer. This is not true.

            A memorized prayer can be said with the same heart and intention and be just as worthy in God's eyes, I'm sure. And I've heard plenty of spontaneous evangelical prayer that sounded like it was on automatic pilot.

            Think of the Pledge of Allegiance - what would you think if someone told you it was meaningless because you'd memorized it? On the contrary, as your understanding and appreciation of our country grows, it means even more. So too the prayers we memorize. Jesus told us to say the Our Father. It is up to us to invest it with meaning.

Like the Our Father, the Hail Mary is straight from the Bible. I think since God chose Mary to be the mother of His son - the arc of the new covenant, so to speak - it doesn't displease Him for us to repeat the words His angel used in greeting her and to ask for her intercession (which is completely biblical as well).

            A few minutes later, the dreaded proof text was proffered: Matt 6:7-8: But when praying, do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do, for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words. So, do not make yourselves like them, for God your Father knows what things you are needing before ever you ask him.

            The issue of prayer - and evangelicals feeling superior to Catholics because they don't use written prayer - is one that deserves discussion. I have heard prayer that sounds like it's on automatic pilot from both sides. Evangelicals need to realize that stringing together a bunch of familiar phrases punctuated every 15 seconds with "Lord" can seem even more rote than a heartfelt Hail Mary intoned by grieving Catholics standing in the wind and rain and cold outside abortion clinics. It's all in the heart. And the heart is not for us, but only for God to judge.

            I am shutting down comments at Prayer for a Passing Ambulance and referring the discussion here. Rather than knee-jerk reaction - slapping down those we think in error - let's approach this in a spirit of increasing understanding, assuming that God loves each of us. Because He does.


From: http://mommylife.net/archives/2008/12/memorized_praye.html