Here are the rules of Mac's prayer meme, which need to be posted: "Name your three most favourite prayers, and explain why they're your favourites. Then tag five bloggers - give them a link, and then go and tell them they have been tagged. Finally, tell the person who tagged you that you've completed the meme... The Liturgy and the Sacraments are off limits here. I'm more interested in people's favourite devotional prayers."
So, here we go...
1) The Hail Mary
A few years ago I was the victim of a violent crime, in fact it was so brutal that I had been left for dead by the perpetrator. The poor fellow was eventually found guilty of attempted murder and ended up in prison, where, unfortunately, he died by his own hand.
Whilst he was in the throws of trying to extinguish my life, I had this powerful sense that the end might be near (I was being strangled at the time - and must have been into the third or forth minute of this experience). My life in those days was not a very good one, in fact my faith was constantly trying to survive the onslaughts of my many mortal sins! Having said that, as I knew that the gates of death seemed close, these words formed upon my struggling lips: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee...". I will never forget the peace that descended upon my soul at that moment! I knew that Our Lady, the Mother of Jesus, was standing next to me - I could feel her protection!
The next day, I woke up in a quiet place, badly bruised, but amazingly still alive. I genuinely believe that reciting the "Hail Mary" probably saved my life - both in the physical and spiritual sense!
2) Prayer to my Guardian Angel ("Oh, angel of God, my guardian dear...")
I am very fortunate to have a great devotion to my guardian angel - we're good friends, too! One evening I was attending Mass on the Feast of the Guardian Angels when the priest introduced the congregation to this prayer during the homily, and, because it rhymes, it stuck in my head there and then! It's a shame that I wasn't brought up Catholic, otherwise I might have known this prayer years before it was given to me at that Eucharist.
Since that night I have recited the prayer to my guardian angel every day, morning and evening. It's such a powerful weapon against danger - so I often say the prayer if confronted by any situation that might place either my body or soul in peril.
A few years ago I lived in Spain, in a seminary. It happened that the community celebrated the Feast of the Guardian Angels whilst out in the countryside. That particular day was dreadfully hard for me, and I felt both homesick and depressed. "If only," I thought, "I had something to remind me of home, some Welsh hymns to sing, or read." Of course, this seemed nigh on impossible - where would I find a Welsh hymnal in the middle of Castile and Leon!?
The seminary celebrated Mass around midday, and after lunch I went to my room for a siesta. I remember feeling particularly close to my guardian angel that day, and had sent him quite a few messages of gratitude during the Eucharistic celebration. All of a sudden, I felt as if my angel was "pulling me" (in a spiritual sort of way) towards the door, and I heard, in my heart, the words "I have a gift for you!" Anyway, after this odd experience, I walked downstairs and entered the common-room, thinking to myself, how strange - as "mystical" things like that don't usually happen to me!
The common-room's walls were crammed with shelves full of books - nearly all of them, though, seemed to be cheap throw-away novels (the type Jeffrey Archer usually writes!). After having been in the house a few days, I still hadn't seen anything worth reading (bar a copy of Brick Lane) within the entire collection. All of a sudden, though, I felt drawn towards a chair, and sat down. Soon after resting myself in the comfortable armchair, something made me look down to my right (an area of the room I hadn't noticed before) - where I saw a bottom shelf next to where I was sitting. I couldn't believe my eyes! There, right in front of me, the only spiritual book in a sea of trash, was the newly published Welsh Catholic Hymn-book (Llyfr Emynau Catholig Cymraeg)...What a wonderful gift, given to me, through Divine Providence, by my beloved guardian angel!!
"Oh, angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God's love commits me here,
ever this day / night be at my side,
to light, to guard, to lead, and guide!"
3) The Jesus Prayer
Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, Υιέ του Θεού, ελέησόν με τον αμαρτωλόν.Just after I became a Catholic, aged 16, someone introduced me to an elderly priest, who lived along the coast near Colwyn Bay. His name was Fr John Ryan OMI, and he was an expert linguist - fluent in all the Celtic languages, as well as many other modern European ones. He would sometimes come and visit me on Anglesey, and I would occasionally go to him, for he would take me on mini-pilgrimages or offer the Mass in Welsh for us both. In that sense, I guess he was my spiritual director. He was definitely a spiritual man.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
One day, we were both sat in my mother's dining-room, overlooking a part of our old garden. It was a very warm day, and the sun was steaming through the window. I remember Fr Ryan's hair seemed much whiter by that window, as white as snow, glistening in that afternoon sunlight. It was then that he turned to me, and asked, "Have you ever come across the Jesus Prayer?" After admitting that I didn't know what he was talking about, this saintly man of God went on to describe the wonderful nature of this very simple, and relatively unfurnished Gospel prayer. His words made so much sense to me there, that it would be an injustice to try and recapture what was said. For those who might be interested, though, there is quite a good Wikipedia entry on the Jesus Prayer, here.
A few years later, whilst studying the New Testament in Greek, I came across this well-known line, which the tax-collector prays in Luke 18:13: Ὁ θεός, ἱλάσθητί μοι τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ (Oh, God, have mercy upon me a sinner!). Of course, this is the Scriptural origin of the Jesus Prayer. For some reason, maybe because it's even shorter and more direct that the Jesus Prayer, this became for me both a motto and a daily mantra. It is written inside the cover of most of my books, and it's what I want written on my gravestone; for there is only one thing that I know about myself, and that is the fact that I am A Sinner.
Ho Theos hilastheti moi to harmartolo!
A heartfelt thanks to Mac McLernon for starting the prayer meme, and to all of you who tagged me into it! I will now have to think of people that I can tag, for it's always interesting to read what fuels the prayer-life of my fellow Christians!
NB - Of course, as is the case with all Christ's followers the most important universal prayer, the one that weaves through both our personal devotions and the liturgy of the Church (including the summit of prayer itself, the Eucharist), is the Lord's Prayer, the one that Christ himself has given us.
[Picture note: Christogram containing the Jesus Prayer in Romanian. Source: Wikimedia Commons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Christogram_with_Jesus_Prayer_in_Romanian.jpg]