Choosing a Vocal Prayer

Father Guibert gives advice on choosing a suitable vocal prayer. He writes: “Amidst the innumerable forms of prayer that are presented to us, a choice has to be made, for they are not all of equal merit, and, moreover, our piety itself requires us to avoid an embarrassing multiplicity.”

He recommends the following: “In the front rank we put the prayer which Jesus taught us, the admirable ‘Lord’s Prayer,’ which is so visibly stamped with its Divine origin in its perfect adaptation to all the needs of the soul; exhausting and expressing all the desires of man’s heart, this prayer will remain living and new to the end of time. It is summed up in the words of Jesus in His agony in the garden: ‘Father, not what I will, but what Thou wilt’; and in that other word spoken on the Cross: ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.’ Such forms of prayer never tire the lips that repeat them; they fill the heart with their plenitude, and their sane vigour uplifts the will to God.”

“Next come prayers inspired by the Holy Ghost, and found in Holy Scripture. The Psalms are the best known of these. In these sublime songs, so great in poetry, prayer has accents of incomparable beauty; sometimes enthusiastic, sometimes supplicating, it finds its way to our souls when we are most humble and penitent, and filled with awe and confidence. Who does not feel his whole being thrill in the Psalms of penitence, especially in the Miserere, the words of which are composed of tears and repentance? It was quite right of the Church to make these songs the substance of her official prayers.”

“There are others that the Church has herself composed and introduced into her liturgy; there are the hymns and collects, the prayers of the Sacrifice of the Mass, and, above all, the Ave Maria, in which the words of the Angel have been so happily completed with a supplication that all generations of Christians have recited, and still recite, with love.”

And, concerning prayers an individual composes himself, Father Guibert states: “Provided that we keep our respect for received prayers, and that we say nothing that is not in accord with the spirit of the Church, there will surely be every advantage in our possessing forms that are more our own, and which have the power of touching our hearts more nearly, and of uplifting us to God.”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On the Exercises of Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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