The Humble Prayer of Repetition

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I have wanted for some time to write again about the grace of the prayer of repetition. Today a God–seeking soul shared with me that she used to think of the prayer of repetition as second rate. Her ideal was to remain perfectly still, empty, and receptive before God. Unable to do attain her ideal, she fell to the humble prayer of repetition, and now has come to recognize its value. She often prays the Chaplet of the Eucharistic Face of Christ. Like others, she has found that this humble prayer of seeking, desire, supplication, and praise anchors her in the presence of Our Lord. The repetition of its invocations (like the prayers of the Rosary) binds her gently, but effectively, to God.

This soul's experience corresponds to my own. The prayer of repetition is pleasing to God because it is intrinsically humble. One accepts one's inability to be perfectly still, entirely receptive, and totally absorbed in adoration, and then one accepts to make use of the poor man's prayer: the same well–loved phrases burnished by repetition. As the heart is enkindled by the Holy Spirit, each repeated prayer becomes like a grain of incense thrown on an incandescent charcoal. Its fragrance is for God alone.

Folks who see themselves as theologically sophisticated and enlightened often disdain what I call les petits moyens, "the little means." They sniff condescendingly at people who pray rosaries, chaplets, and litanies. Better to pray that way, I say, than to abandon prayer altogether.

The humble prayer of repetition bears sweet fruits. One fine day — or in the middle of the night — one wakes to discover that the heart is praying by itself. Deep within, a spring has begun to flow, irrigating one's secret parts. Thus does the grace of Christ begin to heal what is wounded, to refresh what is weary, to make new what is old.


How beautiful...the image of the moment ones discovers "that the heart is praying by itself."
God is good!

thank you for this post, i think that one could make a case that the main "way" of prayer that Jesus teaches in the gospels is the prayer of petition. of course it may start out in an infantile way...but grace will slowly teach us to pray "de profundis...from our depths of brokeness" and that will always lead us to an encounter with God's tender mercy.

there are many ways of meditation that Catholics are being taught that I think just miss this point. We do not repeat a word or a phrase like it is a mantra to arrive at stillness or one pointedness....but we repeat it so that we can enter into our depths of brokeness and cry out from our depths and come to know and live from the mercy of God. IMHO

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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