I’ve never found the rosary particularly helpful to my prayer.
Truth be told, most of the time when I pray, I use my own words. Having learned that prayer is conversation with God, I need not only to speak to God but also to listen intently. I need to sense where God is guiding me in my life, where God is working in my life.
There are those times when it all feels like bunk. I feel like I’m talking to the wall, to myself, like God isn’t around. I end up feeling empty inside, alone. Is God deaf? Maybe my wife who’s a sign language interpreter would have better luck signing my prayers?
But I’ve had moments of great clarity during prayer too. I’ve had things explained to me a thousand times that didn’t make sense until I spoke about them with God. I’ve felt God’s healing presence when I went through painful break-ups, job loss, illness, and the death of close friends and family. I’m a very expressive person (some would say too expressive). The challenge of prayer for me is to listen instead of me doing all the talking, to not just wish for something, hoping God will do some hocus-pocus to solve my problems.
And that challenge to listen is what I recently forgot.
My mom has been really sick for the past three months. She had three major operations and was given a thirty percent chance to live. If that’s not a time to pray really hard, then I don’t know what is. I started to pray for her healing. I asked others to pray for her. I prayed and prayed and prayed and finally—I simply ran out of words. I just couldn’t bring myself to utter another “please God.” I had nothing to say. Mom got worse and so did I.
So what do you do when you don’t know what to say to God any more? As a resident “big mouth” I really need to express something.
My Catholic tradition, which I sometimes find myself questioning, has given to me and to all of us these beautiful prayers: the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be. Together they form the rosary. In recent days, as my fingers moved along the beads that usually hang on the doorknob of my bedroom, and I began to say the words I had memorized so long ago, I felt that presence of God in my life again. I began to feel the motherly touch of God, cradling me in my distress. I was able to hear the beautiful words of these prayers in a new way, in a comforting way. It was a prayer of desperation, yet a prayer of faithfulness. I listened and heard God’s voice in my own.
Mom’s better now. She should be home soon. I won’t say that the power of prayer alone is what healed her (although I secretly believe that). But I will say that I’ve been healed in a new way through the rosary The rosary provided me with a way to pray when I couldn’t think of how to pray for myself or my family.
Maybe it’s boring, and yes, it’s rote, repetitive, and un-sexy. But it saved me from throwing it all away and giving up. The rosary gave me twenty minutes of peace where I could just be with God without worrying about what I would say or what I was thinking. I forget sometimes that, while I may give up on prayer, God sends me prayers too, so I know that He never gives up on me.