Achieving spiritual efficiency through prayer macros

Achieving spiritual efficiency through prayer macros November 28, 2011

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?

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  • Elfin

    For the advanced practitioner: Meta take-a-breath…

    (Takes no arguments, returns no arguments, needs no argument)

  • Pat

    1)The serenity prayer was written by Reinhold Neibuhr (sp?), and the three-line version on Billy Pilgrim’s wall is already a “macro” in that the full prayer is much longer.
    2)”Ouch!” is also a good prayer.
    3)When the Hebrew people moaned in slavery, God “took their moans as prayer.”
    4) “Change you” or “change God” is a false dichotomy. Let’s just say, prayer gets results! 

    5) Very clever piece.

  • Anonymous

    Elfin, I shall be installing that macro in my work environment immediately. :)

  • Tonio

    Why is it a false dichotomy? One basic principle of human life is that we as individuals have no control over the universe or over other people, and attempting the former is folly and attempting the latter is cruelty. All we have control over are the decisions that we make and the actions we carry out based on those decisions. We can’t directly change how others treat us but we can change how we react to their treatment, which can have an indirect change. I disagree with Niebhur’s idea that courage, strength and wisdom are granted – the movie version of the Wizard of Oz had it right that we already possess those things or that we develop them through practice and experience. But the principle he articulated is a sound one no matter what one believes about religion.

  • OMG, I love this– you had me dying, Fred.  That’s too funny. 

    Here’s mine:

    Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus Christ.  Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

    prayer macro
    Jesus, Mary and Joseph!!!!

    alternatively, sometimes I’ll just scream, “Holy Mary, mother of God, wtf was that?”

    Sorry, it’s all I got. ;-)

  • hapax

    I am reminded of the old joke about the young Jesus, playing in the streets of Nazareth.  All of a sudden he stopped, cocked his head, and ran into his father’s carpentry shop.

    Joseph looked up and sighed.  “No, I didn’t call you, my son.  I just hit my thumb with the hammer.”

  • I agree with those who have commented that this is both satirical and true.  Prayer macros are also handy when I don’t even know where to start figuring out what I’m asking for, e.g. when I see or hear an ambulance or fire truck rushing somewhere.  I want to ask whoever’s listening to help the people in trouble and watch over the EMTs and firefighters; I wish for the best outcome for all involved; I’m glad I live in a society where at least sometimes, people are inclined to help complete strangers (see the opening verse of Amanda Palmer’s “Ampersand”); and probably more.  When I hear the sirens or see the lights, that all tends to come out in one thought/prayer/whatever you want to call it that sounds something like “Bless.”

  • Heartfout

    On topic, I tend to swear by making reference to sea creatures for some reason. I also have the habit when insulting and complimenting  people, but since I have unusual views on what sea creatures are awesome, me calling you an octopus or a cuttlefish is me saying you’re awesome, while me calling you a dolphin is a horrific insult.

    This can confuse people in the heat of the moment…

  • Lori

     while me calling you a dolphin is a horrific insult.  

    Well of course it is. Nasty creatures dolphins. Smart, but nasty. 

  • Anonymous

    Enough of this PHP nonsense. here’s an m4 prayer macro for y’all:

    dnl hail_mary.m4
    dnl Hail Mary m4 macro script
    dnl usage:
    dnl $ m4 hail_mary.m4
    dnl you can also set HAIL_MARY to your own favourite hail_mary
    dnl and COUNT to however many repitions you like
    dnl e.g.
    dnl m4 -DCOUNT=21 -DHAIL_MARY=’Hail Mary full of Grace … Amen’ hail_mary.m4
    define(HAIL_MARY, ifdef(`HAIL_MARY’,HAIL_MARY,“Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribusnunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.”))dnl

  • Anonymous

    public class LordsPrayer {

    public static final God g = new God();
    public People us[] = new ArrayList();
    private Location hvn;
    private Location earth;
    private final Kingdom k = new Kingdom();
    private final Power p = new Power();
    public  final Glory glry = new Glory(); /* Can’t really make Glory private */

    LordsPrayer(God g, People us[])

        hvn = g.getLocation();
        earth = us[0].getLocation();
        g.getWill().do(e, hnv);
        g.give(us.getDailyBread()) && !g.lead(us.getTemptation());
        for(;;) {

    /* NOTREACHED */

    public static void main(String[] args) {

    LordsPrayer l;

        for(int i=0;i<10;i++) {
            l =  = new LordsPrayer(g, us);

  • Anonymous

    KentonS, that is a work of art.

    And if I knew anything about m4 macros, I’m sure I could say the same about yours, arcseconds. XD

    This is the best thread.

  • This is awesome. I think the glory comment makes it perfect, not that the whole thing isn’t…well, glorious.

    me.javaProgrammer = true;

  • Bethany

    God is awesome.  Very little else is.

  • As a matter of fact, a great many things right here in this world give me a sense of awe. KentonS’s comment was indeed one of them. 

  • Anonymous

    perceptive people may have noticed that a space is missing between ‘peccatoribus’ and ‘nunc’ in my Ave Maria text.

    This was done in the manner of persian rugs and native american beadwork and so forth, a deliberate flaw in order not to step on God’s territory of perfection.

    It totally wasn’t because I stuffed up while futzing around removing and adding newlines.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Anon and Arynne, there are several variations on that story, some of them very ancient indeed, and one attributed to Joseph, who while in Pharoah’s prison would write out the Hebrew alphabet on the wall every day as a prayer to God. 

    Which makes me think of the belief in some cultures (which, when I’m in a very uncharitable mood (ALL THE TIME), I think includes American Fundamentalism), that Writing is Magic.  

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    God is awesome.  Very little else is.

    I beg to disagree!

  • Apocalypse Review

    On topic, I tend to swear by making reference to sea creatures for some reason

    Reminds me of Captain Haddock’s creatively colorful turns of phrase. X-D

  • Apocalypse Review

    arcseconds and KentonS: *applause* :D

  • Anonymous

    boolean veryLittle = false;

    if(g.getProperty(“awesome”)) {
      return true;
    } else {
      return veryLittle;

  • Anonymous

    boolean veryLittle = false;

    if(g.getProperty(“awesome”)) {
      return true;
    } else {
      return !veryLittle;

  • Porlock Junnior

    God++ ?
    Isn’t that C for “My soul magnifies the Lord”?

  • Anonymous

    It is now. :)

  • Anonymous

    Ooh, the original Latin!  Nice! :)

    But you forgot the space between “peccatoribus” and “nunc.” Now it’s going to return an error.

  • Swordship

    It turns out that all those failing students have been using “study
    marcros”, and all those fat people have been using “exercise
    macros”.  We can expect that prayer macros will yield the same level of
    success in the spiritual domain.

  • Swordship

    I bet that Tony Jones thinks that every time he hits the “play” button for an Eric Clapton mp3, it is really a “practice macro”. Tony can’t understand why anyone would waste time practicing the guitar when you can save so effort by running a macro (and it even sounds better!). This explains a lot about both Tony’s musical ability as well as spiritual development.

  • Rikalous

    The prayer macros were Fred Clark’s idea, not Tony Jones. There’s not need to snipe at Tony Jones’s supposed spiritual failings for it, much less his supposed musical failings. There’s no need to snipe at Fred Clark for this post, either, because it is what is known as a joke.

    Also? Less of the fat-shaming, please.

  • Swordship

    Well, since Fred Clark’s sniping a peoples’ prayers can be “jokes”, then we can suppose comments about old Fred’s music, fat, and spiritual development can be just as funny?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    What’s with the pissy new people this week?

  • Kish

    Are you sure there’s more than one person there?

  • The hell are you talking about?  He’s not sniping at anyone.  If anything it’s slightly self effacing* and is based around how most of us, regardless of what we’re doing, try to integrate some level of convenience into the task.

    You on the other hand come in here calling names and acting like a magnificent asshole.

    *You do know Fred is a Christian yes?  Fred does in fact, pray.  The joke is self-targeting if it’s aimed at anyone.

  • Swordship

    Well, here you are calling me names – so, by your own definition that makes you similarly magnificent. Fred is, technically, mocking people’s prayer (yes, that is a form of “sniping”). You only think jokes are funny when they are at the expense of those “other” people, eh? 

  • Swordship:

    Are you carrying a joke way too far or are you for real? O.o

  • Swordship

    Invis : I’m not sure – how can one tell the difference? (So, by “way too far” you mean “apply essentially the same joke to people you like, rather than to people you don’t”?)