XXII. Jesus always cautions us against (as the retired Pope puts it) “the chatter, the verbiage, the smothers the spirit. We are all familiar with the danger of reciting habitual formulas while our mind is somewhere else entirely.” The sincerity of prayer is often sharpest when we feel our need for help, forgiveness, insight … that is, when we are humbled by our inadequacy and turn in trust to God.
But authentic prayer is not “episodic,” confined to those situations of need. Those times will occur in every life, but a solid relationship with God is the foundation that allows us to find peace, not panic, in those moments; the more we understand that human weakness, the more patient, understanding, and open we become to the weakness of others. This foundation is what we mean by “prayer without ceasing” – not that we do nothing else, for this would neglect our God-given responsibilities in life, but that we have a stable orientation towards God that allows our labors, our leisure, and our prayer-lives to be an integrated whole.
Yet in this life, such a stable, silent inward communion with God also needs the nourishment of thoughts, words, images, and shared experiences of prayer (especially the Church’s liturgy). Foremost among these words, then, is the Lord’s Prayer, given to us by the One Who knows the Father and brings God to us and tells us: “When you pray, say: ‘Our Father ….’”