What Is the Best Way to Pray?

There are so many ways to pray, but is there a best way? Father Jacques Philippe offers his insights.

Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, “The Virgin in Prayer,” between 1640 and 1650
Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, “The Virgin in Prayer,” between 1640 and 1650 (photo: Sassoferrato / Public Domain)

Prayer move us closer to God, answers our petitions, and can even result in miracles. “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:22. But how should we pray? 

“Praying in tongues means the Holy Spirit takes over so it’s a deeper way to pray than we can do on our own,” a Catholic Charismatic once told me.

“The Rosary is the weapon,” Padre Pio said. And the Blessed Mother asked us to pray it daily during her appearances at Fatima and Lourdes.

I had another priest tell me that contemplative prayer as practiced by St. Teresa of Ávila and St. John of the Cross (holy friends in Spain during the 16th century) is the highest form of prayer. There is Lectio Devino, a way of praying with the Word of God — reading, reflecting and responding to Scripture. 

Just talking with God from the heart is the best way, a Protestant friend told me after I pulled out the Anima Christi prayer to pray together before an event. I proceeded anyways, knowing it was brief, ecumenical, and a favorite of St. Ignatius Loyola.

There is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. “Oh, what great graces I will grant to souls who say this chaplet,” Jesus told St. Faustina. Litanies are beautiful and often ancient prayers of repetition to bring us deeper into the heart of Christ. By praying Stations of the Cross we walk with Jesus on his way to the cross. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours is a rhythm of prayer based on psalms and hymns set to specific hours of the day. 

 

Father Jacques Philippe

There are so many ways to pray, but is there a best way? In an email interview, Father Jacques Philippe, who has written many books on prayer with more than one million copies sold in 24 languages, responded to that question. Here is his response:

“It is not very easy to say which is the best prayer. We must always remember this: What makes prayer good is not to use this or that method, but the fact that our prayer expresses interior attitudes of faith, of humble hope, of a real desire for loving prayer. I develop this in Chapter 2 of my book Thirsting for Prayer.

“In addition, the Lord does not lead all people the same way. It is normal that different people may prefer different ways of praying. But it is also good that in our concrete life different forms of prayer find their place. We must not oppose the forms of prayer but use them according to the most favorable context.

“There are prayers that are more suited to a particular situation. If I am sick, tired, or if I drive my car it will be easier to say the Rosary than to meditate on the Scriptures. The Rosary is both a powerful prayer, and a very practical prayer because it is simple. In a charismatic group, or when I feel the need to call on the Holy Spirit more, it could be singing in tongues, etc. Having said that, it is very desirable that all prayer life may be nourished by Scripture, so some practice of lectio divina should always be part of our prayer life.

“On the other hand, I believe it is good that, whatever way of praying we use, it introduces us little by little into a more contemplative prayer — that is, to say a prayer where the activities, the words, the reflections have little importance, because prayer becomes a simple but profound attitude of welcoming the presence of God. A prayer that is less active and more receptive — a simple gaze of faith and love toward the Lord, a simple act of faith and love, a loving attention of the heart to the presence of God. Which is ultimately the highest form of prayer, when it is more God who acts and the person who welcomes.”

In his book Thirsting for Prayer, Father Philippe explained, “What the world most needs today is prayer. It is prayer that will give birth to all the renewals, healings, deep and fruitful transformations we all want for society today.” For a full listing of Father Philippe’s books, go here.

 

Other Books on Prayer

St. Joseph’s Guide to Lectio Divina. Join with Blessed Mary and St. Joseph, using the ancient prayer method of lectio divina to grow in age, grace and wisdom.

A Prayer Book of Favorite Litanies contains 115 litanies.

Praying with Mother Angelica. Meditations on the Rosary and the Way of the Cross.

Unleashing the Power of Intercessory Prayer. Revitalize your prayer life and cooperate more completely with him who desires to heal and save us. Nine key steps to boosting your intercessory prayer’s power and efficacy.

How to Pray Well. Drawing on 2,000 years of Christian experience, Father Raoul Plus looks at the saints in prayer, their struggles and their insights, and gives spiritual advice.

The Art of Praying. Practical ways to improve your prayers with insights from the saints, a reflection on spontaneous and formal prayers, and how to improve family prayers.

The Basic Book of Catholic Prayer: How to Pray and Why. Shows ways to avoid common obstacles and deepen your prayers so that they become more heartfelt, more focused, and fuller of love for God.

And You Will Find Rest: What God Does in Prayer. The Dark Night, by St. John of the Cross, and The Interior Castle, by St. Teresa of Ávila, are the guides Father Wayne Sattler uses to explore the path of prayer leading to contemplation.

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