When I entered the convent, a custom prompted us to think of God all day long. Every hour a bell rang over the PA, and we prayed a lengthy ” hour prayer.” This is no longer done, and it has never been done in regular homes as far as I know. Yet, we are still to fulfill St. Paul’s exhortation to “pray always.” How can we do this amidst packing lunches, chauffeuring, cooking, working, and the sundry other things that pack our days and absorb our minds? One trick is to sprinkle short one-line prayers throughout the day. These “arrow prayers” are said to pierce the heavens.
Not only do short prayers serve to keep us mindful of God, they can be powerful. In the Gospels, Jesus brought about miracles with very few words: “Peace, be still” and storms were calmed; “Stand up, take up your mat, and walk” and paralytics were cured; and “Lazarus, come forth” and a dead man walked out of his tomb.
I must admit my most frequent short prayer is “Help.” Others are the short prayers we probably learned in Catholic school, such as “My God, I love you”;”Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me”; “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours”; and “Jesus, Mary, Joseph.”
We can pray these prayers whenever we think of it or when there is a lull in our activities. Some people use a crutch and associate something with the prayer. For example, after I learned that Thomas Merton was electrocuted by a fan, I began to pray “Jesus, Mary, Joseph” whenever I plugged a cord into an outlet! One woman prays an aspiration whenever she touches a doorknob—not because it’s dangerous, but because it is her chosen cue to say a prayer. Other situations that might call for a short prayer are getting into a car (Angel of God), taking a test or going for an interview (Holy Spirit, inspire me), hearing a siren (God, protect them), or passing a cemetery (Eternal rest . . .).
Nowadays the most popular short prayer is the Jesus Prayer, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The Catechism states that just the name “Jesus” is a prayer. It’s a beautiful and effective one. By the way, when we hear this name used profanely, we might immediately offer the short prayer, “Praised be the name of Jesus.”
Most of us have the practice of calling on St. Anthony of Padua when we’ve lost something. But we can also speak to other saints during the day, in particular, our patron saint, for example, “St. Catherine, pray for me.”
A lovely prayer is to say “God bless you” and not only when someone sneezes.
What short prayers are part of your life or your family’s life? When do you pray them?