A caller phones in with an interesting predicament:
“I’m having writer’s block, but it’s prayer block … I can get out my rosary, and I can pray structured prayers, I can pray pre-written prayers, I can go through my prayer handbook and have no problem. I cannot seem to talk to God freestyle…one on one.”
“Freestyle” is one way to think about times when we pray to God in our own words, and Father Dave and Brett enjoy the caller’s turn of phrase.
Father Dave explains that, while creative and spontaneous prayers exist in many Catholic spiritualities, “There’s way less pressure that someone should be good at freestyling prayer. … That’s a much stronger tradition in other Christian denominations. Within Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, we really do rely on structured prayers.” In fact, Father Dave says, not even all priests and bishops are masters of spontaneous prayer.
Father Dave reassures the caller, saying that prayer is not a contest between Catholics or a course in which we’re graded on our style: “God does not require us to be able to ramble off stuff and talk to him.”
So, if the caller is connected to God and fulfilled in her current prayer life, she needn’t worry. Father Dave adds that if she ever finds herself longing to evolve her prayer life simply because she wants to, there are several tools she could use to help — contemplative prayer, the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, guided meditation, and meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary.