Ronald Knox on setting free the wings of prayer

"For myself I always think it's not much use trying to fight against this particular kind of distraction, trying to make ourselves feel every single petition in the Our Father every time we say it. No, I think it's meant to be a sort of taking-off-from-the-ground when we want to set free the wings of prayer. And therefore what I would recommend is getting hold of just one idea in a prayer like that, either the first idea that comes along, or the idea that appeals to us most, or the idea that appeals to us most at this particular moment, and hanging on to that all through our recitation of the prayer itself; the words Our Father, for example, are quite enough by themselves to key one up, don't you think? I don't see why we shouldn't just back in that idea, sun ourselves in that idea, of God's fatherhood, and let the rest of the prayer slip past us while we are about it. But with this recitation of the Pater Noster at Mass, I'm afraid it's worse than that so far as I am concerned; I don't think I try to concentrate on any single phrase in it, I just babble it out with a delightful sense that I am talking to God. With most of our prayers, I mean, we feel—at least I do—as if we were talking into a microphone, knowing that as a matter of fact there is Somebody listening, but not having the sense, the awareness, that our mind is in direct contact with another Mind. But the Pater Noster at Mass is somehow like sitting over the fire with somebody else sitting over the fire in the opposite chimney-corner, talking about a hundred things, perhaps, important and unimportant, perhaps just sitting there and not bothering to say much, but with the sense, the awareness, of somebody else's presence. If you feel like that about the Pater Noster at Mass—or about any other bit of the prayers you say in the course of the day—don't bother to disturb your intimacy with God by deliberately and laboriously thinking about this or that; just stop thinking and throw yourself into the experience of being with him."

—Ronald Knox, The Mass in Slow Motion (Aeterna Press, 2014 [1948]), 71-72


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