I was able to find a pocket of solitude each day to step away from the busyness of a conference, and pray. During this time, I reflected upon what the rosary has come to mean to me. I am still in awe of what God is doing in my life through this unexpected return to my Catholic faith. For so many years, I fell right along my fellow non-Catholic believers in criticizing many Catholic practices, including praying the rosary. I considered it the "repetitive prayer" Jesus condemned in St. Matthew 6:7:
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
That was the King James Version using the word "repetitions." But if you look at the Greek, the word is battalogeō, and it actually means to "stammer" (as in stuttering), to use many idle words, to babble.
But is praying the rosary "vain?" Is it babbling to God? No. On the contrary, it is an ancient meditative practice that has purpose. In fact, I have discovered the joys of praying the rosary that before were unknown to me. I thought of what my previous experience with prayer had been while involved in non-Catholic churches.
I first need to state that I have an insatiable need to communicate to God. I have had this need ever since I was a young child capable of thought. I would talk to God as though He was one of my friends. I knew He existed. I knew He was watching. And I would sometimes write letters to Him. (As much as I hoped to wake up one morning and see a magically written response to me, it never happened. Still, I tried that method for a few months.)
I would love to go on Catholic retreats during my teen years. I loved to walk outdoors and meditate upon God's goodness. I'd occasionally tell Him my woes, but mostly I just admired His handiwork and worshiped Him for it. My love for prayer expanded when I became "born-again" at age 20. I immediately sought out books on prayer, developing a prayer life, and joined prayer groups. I learned about the differences between confessing prayer, petitioning prayer, worshiping prayer, and interceding prayer. I learned different postures for prayer. In the midst of that, I learned about fasting.
So prayer has been a huge part of my life and I miss it if I don't do it regularly. Prayer is one of those things we know we should do, but often our days become so full that we neglect taking the time to do it. I remember hearing some statistic years ago that 57% of American pastors prayed less than 20 minutes a day. Korean pastors prayed 90 minutes a day. (When I tried to find this statistic, I only found a piece by Jerry Falwell in 2000. The study he references probably exists online but I could not find it.)
I pondered the many times I was involved in prayer groups. Talk about babbling! Some people who get involved in prayer groups do not understand the distinction between praying and preaching. A prayer is a communication from myself to God. It can be confession, a request, or a celebration of God's many wonderful attributes. But it is not preaching. There were quite a few times during some all-night prayer sessions when a well-meaning believer would take the opportunity to drone on for 15 minutes, pulling various scripture verses from their Bibles. What they did came close to an expository teaching. Then they thought it was a prayer because at the end they'd hastily say, "In Jesus' name, we pray..."
Did we get off topic from the focus of our prayers? Absolutely. It would require the leader to gently remind everyone that we were there to intercede for the church and not veer off into a request for healing Aunt Margie's bunions. (Although we were asked to keep Aunt Margie in our prayers afterward.)
So what does this have to do with praying the rosary? This: praying the rosary keeps me on track from falling down the rabbit hole of my distracting thoughts. Praying the rosary keeps me from elevating my own perceived intellect above my need for God's mercy. Praying the rosary disciplines my spirit to meditate upon God's amazing love for mankind and the sufferings His Son endured so that we might be saved. The rosary reminds me of the humility and submission of Mary and her Son so that all would know God. The rosary reminds me to be joyful as well as sorrowful. The rosary reminds us to rejoice in God's glorious mysteries.
It doesn't sound so much like babbling, now, does it?
When I returned to the Catholic church, God used the rosary to pull me in. The line was thrown and I caught it. I didn't know why and even while reciting the prayers, I was dubious. He in His great mercy impressed upon me the need to return to this basic way of praying. I discovered that my local Catholic radio station had a broadcast of Mother Angelica and her Sisters at Our Lady of the Monastery praying the rosary each day from 7:30 - 8:00 AM each day. I realized I needed to do this and so, I would arise each morning with the purpose of starting my day with this type of prayer.
I am going to be so bold as to say that praying the rosary has "turbo-charged" my spiritual growth within the Catholic church. I have embraced so many things that I had rejected for years, so quickly, that I am literally stunned. I am seeing prayers answered like never before. God is so faithful to me, even though I am becoming aware in a deeper way of how totally unworthy I am.
The rosary is indeed a secret weapon and should be cherished by all Catholics. I am hoping I have the opportunity to share this with more people as I continue my journey. I love my rosary and love to pray it. Even at my most devout moments in life, I didn't have many times when I prayed for 30 straight minutes.
The rosary allows me to do it. Praise be to His holy name...
As I was praying the rosary at the conference, I thanked God for this practice.