I don’t know when I began to learn my prayers and I’m not sure if Now I lay me down to sleep came before Our Father ,who art in heaven, but my first memories are of praying at bedtime and of reciting the rosary with my family in our living room with my parents doing the big prayers at the beginning and end and all of us repeating the rest, “the prayers that last a lifetime.” I say that last because (as I believe I have said here before) on occasions when I have participated at prayer rituals at nursing homes, even people who cannot articulate anything else can still recite the Lord’s Prayer. So “from womb to tomb” these prayers are a comfort to a lot of us – especially when we are in such distress that nothing else comes to mind in our address to God. There’s also a unifying aspect to the Lord’s Prayer for Christians, since most all mainline denominations can recite it together. Even many Catholics have learned how to add a line in a bow toward ecumenism!
In this morning’s second reading (ROM 8:26-27), Paul encourages us to have confidence in our prayer when circumstances are such that we want to express something more personal or in addition to our traditional prayers. He says it beautifully. Brothers and sisters, the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness when we do not know how to pray as we ought. The Spirit intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what the Spirit means because the Spirit intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we say – or even if we just come to prayer in silence and say nothing at all. If we are prompted to turn to God, that is enough. It’s as if (I believe) God can’t wait for us to come and ask or praise or sit in silence in the divine presence. All we need to do is trust that the Spirit has our best interests at heart and let go into the language of love.