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Plain and Simple Prayers

By Damian Torres-Botello, S.J.


Sometimes when I sit down to pray I can become distracted with boredom. I’ve discovered this kind of distraction easily invades my quiet space when the activity of my prayer feels tedious. For instance, I love to pray the rosary. The rosary, in the Catholic tradition, is a set of prayer beads that coincide with particular prayers said in repetition. This is a devotion or a form of prayer I am committed to praying daily. I enjoy reciting the rosary, the rhythm is comforting to me, someone who experiences anxiety. But, there are days when I feel restless and the time I’ve set aside turns into an annoyance rather than a blessing. I’ve learned these moments signal a need to diversify my routine. And it’s not just the rosary, it has been my morning prayer, or the little prayers I say before bed. Whatever the pattern, I desire to renew my prayer on occasion.

Two Bored-Busting Prayers

In my weight loss journey, there’s always a point when my body decides to stop progressing. I’ve been told bodies tend to plateau, a state of little or no change following periods of growth. Advice given to me by personal trainers is to change up the workout routine. One exercise dubbed a plateau-buster is the stairmaster. Sometimes our daily routines need a little busting too, even our prayer. There are two prayers I often go to when my prayer is feeling flat.

Prayer of St. Catherine Labouré

One “bored-busting” prayer is super simple. It’s inspired by St. Catherine Labouré. She says:

I tell God everything in my heart. I tell God about my pains and my joys, and then I listen. If you listen, God will also speak to you, for with the good Lord, you have to both speak and listen. God always speaks to you when you approach God plainly and simply.

The last little phrase encourages me – ‘plainly and simply.’ There are times when I feel I have to speak in a certain way, sit in a certain way, and be a certain way to pray. And, to be honest, I’ve no idea what “certain way” means. I get stranded inside the idea of prayer and ‘doing it right.’ In short, I get stuck in my head. But this little prayer reminds me to be me, even with God. And what does ‘plainly and simply’ mean? I think back to the last time I spoke to one of my best friends, persons in my life I know how to be authentically myself. And I imagine speaking to them on the phone, or over coffee, on a road trip, a walk, or having a drink at our favorite bar. And, suddenly, prayer opens up in a new way.

Pope Francis’ Five Finger Prayer

The second “bored-busting” prayer I love to go to is Pope Francis’ Five Finger Prayer. The image below outlines the prayer perfectly. This is also a great prayer to teach children. There’s even a children’s book available! If you’re familiar with the rosary, I will sometimes use this Five Finger Prayer for each decade. This little method is easy to remember and invites me to unite my personal world and the larger, wider world into my prayer. It has become one of my favorite ways to pray when I need to inspire some energy into my meditation.

I have the propensity to complicate the uncomplicated, like silence and prayer. Whether it’s St. Catherine’s easily accessible prayer or Pope Francis’ Five Finger Prayer, these invocations highlight the necessities in prayer, meditation, or reflection I already possess: Me. Nothing more. Nothing less. It’s that straightforward. A simplicity I often need to be reminded of every now and again.