Tony Jones posted a provocative poll on the subject of prayer.
The question was “Why do you pray?” and the poll allowed for only two possible answers: 1) Prayer changes me; and 2) Prayer changes God. (Results here.)
I’d like to get at this question from a different angle by sharing with you my own practice of prayer macros. Like the keyboard shortcuts after which I’ve named them, these are convenient, time-saving devices that allow me to invoke some commonly needed and frequently used prayers without having to recite each in its entirety on every discrete occasion for which such prayers may be appropriate or necessary.
The idea here is to harness the labor-saving logic employed by computer programmers to enable us to be more spiritually efficient. “The prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” the scripture says, but think of how much more it might availeth if we ensure that we’re making the most effective use of our prayer time. Prayer macros can make us more efficient and therefore more productive by helping us to avoid “vain repetition,” just like Jesus said.
Think of a faithful Catholic parishioner going to confession and being instructed to say 10 “Our Fathers” as penance for her sins. Now think of how we would go about writing code for such an instruction to our computer. We wouldn’t type out the full Lord’s Prayer 10 times over, but instead would enter the full text, then write a simple script to trigger its recitation 10 times. That’s more efficient and more elegant — and shouldn’t our spiritual life be at least as elegant as a bit of well-written code?
Some examples may be helpful here to give you a better sense of what prayer macros are and how they can be used in our daily lives.
Say you’re driving along and you see a motorist stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire, talking on a cell phone. The guy’s got a phone, so he’s able to summon assistance, but it’s still an opportunity to offer a prayer on his behalf. It might go something like this:
Heavenly Father, you see the need of that poor traveler stranded by the roadside with his broken-down vehicle. Watch over him and keep him safe in the hollow of your hand. May the AAA truck arrive safely and quickly, Lord, and may his vehicle be swiftly restored to working order without needing anything terribly expensive so that this man can be reunited with his family and can soon again confidently rely on that 2004 Camry to get him to and from work. Bless him, Lord, and all such stranded travelers. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
That’s nearly 100 words. Not overly long, perhaps, but still long enough that it might take one a full minute or two to compose and pray such a prayer, during which time one’s own attention will not be as fully focused on the task of driving as it should be. A simple prayer macro will help you to keep your eyes on the road, while also saving you the work of reinventing this prayer on every new occasion of passing a stranded motorist.
So for the prayer above, I substitute a prayer macro — a single, short phrase that can be employed to stand-in for the prayer in its entirety. Unlike software macros, creating prayer macros requires no special computer skill or knowledge of Perl or Java. Prayer macros are easily created by prayer. Simply arrange with God ahead of time that when you recite the prayer macro, it will be understood as a recitation of the longer prayer in full.
Thus when I drive past a stranded motorist, I don’t need to repeat the full prayer above. I simply invoke the appropriate prayer macro — in this case, “Oh, poor bastard” — and God hears the rest.
Thanks to the use of prayer macros like this one, I find I am able to pray without ceasing in less than half the time that used to take me.
Here are some additional examples of prayer macros I use regularly to help make my prayer life more efficient. Feel free to adapt any of these for your own use as you see fit.
Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen.
Prayer macro: Learn to drive, a – – hole!
Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Prayer macro: F – – – me!
Prayer: O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works. He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke. I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord. Bless thou the Lord, O my soul. Praise ye the Lord.
Prayer macro: Holy s – – -! Did you see that?