There was a time when I thought recited prayer was a canned response to the grandeur of God. I would dutifully recite The Lord's Prayer in schools and the occasional Hail Mary, but I thought they weren't as good as heartfelt personalized prayer.
Now I can see how my old beliefs were snobbish. I am more grateful than ever for recited prayer. Heartfelt prayer is good, but recitation is also good in another way. With heartfelt prayer, one can easily go off on tangents, and believe me, I'm the Queen of Tangents. I can be talking to someone about a particular topic and then another thought connected to what I was saying will pop into my mind and I'm off and running like an Olympic sprinter.
I recently purchased the 1962 Roman Missal. Inside is a glorious storehouse of prayers. There are prayers for the morning, the evening, and devotions for Communion and Confession. There are blessings for a journey, for bread, candles and eggs. It is just a treasury of recited prayer that has been lifted up to God throughout the decades. They are simply beautiful.
Over the past six years, I have been in a spiritual drought. Although I had both led and taught prayer groups, I found myself in a place where my usual heartfelt prayer could not come forth. I still was digesting my last experience with a ministry, still sifting through my doubts and disappointments. I didn't want to continue to complain to God. He knew my heart. I only continued to ask for His grace to love and forgive, which He has done. But after that, there was nothing. No desire in me to actually pursue prayer which was a bit of a shock to someone who had passionately been involved with prayer for 18 years.
When I prayed the Rosary, I felt as though those beads were a lifeline for me. They were sure and strong, reliable. I felt as though God was using the Rosary at that point to pull me from the confusing waters of worldly thought to His Divine Presence. I was so humbled that all I could do was praise Him over and over again for His mercy.
For many of us, recited prayer is much like the tail of a kite. The kite is my heart, yearning for communion with my God but yet how to reach Him? The recited prayers are like the string. Stirred by the winds of the Holy Spirit, my prayers start short, and then lengthen as my heart-kite sails toward heaven. The string provides a grounding and directs the ascent of my heart.
For those such as myself, this grounding is profound when you have no words to say, when you are weary of trying, when you are so filled with the worries of the world that your mind is racing and you don't know how to stop. Recited prayer gives you a ladder on which to climb. Grabbing one rung at a time, the recited prayers prove to be sturdy, and able to hold your weight while giving you balance.
That's why I love recited prayer.