The Our Father is perhaps the most well-known prayer of Christians. It is found in scripture itself, given to us by Christ as the way to pray to God. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, he composed the Our Father. It is prayed at every mass and many times during each rosary. The Our Father is split into two main parts. The first half of the prayer orients itself towards God and His will, while the second half asks for various graces for all men. Although there are many, many other prayers, each of which is appropriate in its own place, there is none more universal or applicable than the Lord's Prayer, because it is given to us by God Himself as a way to pray to God.
The Hail Mary is a more uniquely Catholic prayer, but it still has strong biblical roots. The first half of the prayer is taken directly from the Bible. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you”. This comes from the angel Gabriel's greeting to Mary at the Annunciation, in Luke 2. “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb”. Elizabeth prayed these words when Mary came to visit her. These were Elizabeth's words of greeting as she recognized the awesome mystery Mary was participating in. The second half of the prayer has been composed through pious tradition. “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death”. While it doesn't come from the Bible, this part of the prayer is also beautiful, because we recall that Mary was the mother of Jesus and therefore of God and we ask her intercession to give us grace to avoid sin. This prayer is most commonly said as part of the Rosary, but it is useful at all times, and particularly when we are tempted to sin. It is not for certain when this prayer was constructed in its current form, but it has been set to beautiful music by many composers, particularly of the late middle ages and the classical periods. They recognized that it was a beautiful tribute to Mary and a powerful prayer of intercession with her.
This prayer is often called a doxology, because it is a prayer to the Trinity. Although it is so short, it is still full of mystery and ideas to contemplate. The first half reminds us of the mystery of the Trinity and that all glory and honor is due the Trinity because They are God. The second half of the prayer reminds us of the eternity of God. This prayer and similar prayers are very common in the Bible and Christian history. It is a short reminder of the mystery of God, a way to quickly praise Him at the end of every other prayer and a way to remember that every prayer, no matter if it is addressed to Mary or the saints, is ultimately seeking God's help. This prayer is said at the end of each decade of the rosary and is also often added to the end of psalms when they are prayed at Mass or in the Liturgy of the Hours.
O My Jesus
The O My Jesus prayer is often added to the end of each decade of the Rosary. This prayer was given by Mary to the three children at Fatima. It is amazing that in just one hundred years it has become so widely used. It is particularly a prayer for the souls in Purgatory, that they be speedily purified and reach Heaven.
Hail Holy Queen
The Hail Holy Queen is a prayer to Mary. It was composed in the middle ages and was a favorite of St. Bernard of Clarivaux. It is often prayed today at the end of the rosary or as part of the Liturgy of the Hours. It is also known as the Salve Regina, particularly when it is sung in Gregorian chant.
St. Michael Prayer
The St. Michael prayer was composed by Pope Leo XIII in the late 19th century. He wanted it to be prayed at the end of each mass for the protection of the Church. St. Michael is seen in the Bible as the leader of the armies of God, and so this prayer is powerful, in asking him to come to our assistance in the fight against the devil. The devil is much stronger than us, and so we can never ask the intercession of too many angels and saints for strength in fighting the evil one. Whenever we feel tempted, this prayer would be good to say, that this powerful angel would come to our assistance.
This prayer is often attributed to St. Bernard of Clarivaux, but it was actually composed in the 15th century and popularized by a Father Bernard in the 17th century. St. Francis de Sales prayed it when he was beset by temptations of doubts of faith, and Mother Teresa would often pray this prayer to ask for spiritual gifts. This is a very powerful prayer asking Mary's intercession for us. We would do well to pray it whenever we need some gift or grace from her.
Sign of the Cross
This is perhaps the shortest prayer in all of Christianity, but it is also one of the most profound and a reminder of two central mysteries of our Faith. First of all, the words remind us of the Trinity and that mystery. Secondly, the motion reminds us of the death of Christ on the cross, without which no one would be redeemed. Even though the prayer is so short and easy to say without really thinking about it, it can be fruit for much contemplation if we really concentrate on our words and actions.
The Apostles' Creed is a prayer listing many of the beliefs of the Catholic faith. According to legend, it has twelve articles of faith, and each one was proposed and included by one apostle. Whether this legend is true or not, it certainly is an ancient creed and reflects what the apostles taught. It was probably used in Roman times as a confession of faith for new converts. Today, it is often prayed at the beginning of the Rosary, as well as during the baptism of adult converts, as they recite it to profess their faith.
This creed was adopted at the council of Nicea in 325 and revised at the council of Constantinople in 381. The council of Nicea was called to combat the false claims by the Arian heresy that Jesus was not God, so this creed has a very heavy emphasis on the divinity of Jesus. It is the creed which is most commonly recited at Sunday mass after the sermon. It has been a somewhat controversial creed, because there are several terms in it which explicitly define doctrines which some groups might not agree with. The church has always held firm in its belief and terminology. Along with the apostles' creed, it is a powerful expression of the Catholic faith.
See the more detailed explanation of the Rosary.
Liturgy of the Hours
The Liturgy of the Hours makes up the official prayer of the church along with the Mass. It is a set of prayers for each day of the year, to be recited at various times during the day. Some of the times of prayer are Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer. Most of these are composed of a few psalms, a reading from scripture or the church fathers and another prayer like the Magnificat or the Te Deum. It is required for all bishops, priests and deacons to pray this every day, but of course the laity are encouraged to do so as well. Most religious orders structure their community prayer around these times. Although only the clergy are required to participate daily in this prayer of the church and it is not necessarily well-known, it is one of the most important types of formal prayer, because the entire church and world is constantly lifted up to God through the faithful recitation of these prayers.
The Angelus is a prayer to Mary, commemorating the Annunciation and Incarnation. Its words are taken almost directly from the gospel of Luke and the Annunciation narrative therein. Hail Marys are interspersed throughout. Of course it can be prayed at any time, but traditionally there have been three times that it is prayed, particularly in monasteries: 6am, noon and 6pm. It is sometimes said in conjunction with the Liturgy of the Hours.
The Anima Christi is a prayer from the Middle Ages. St. Ignatius of Loyola was very fond of it, and he included it in his Spiritual Exercises. It is a prayer particularly devoted to the Holy Eucharist and to the passion and death of Christ. It is very rich in imagery. With its short lines of petition, it can also be used as short prayers to say throughout the day.
Guardian Angel Prayer
This prayer is a testament to the Catholic belief in guardian angels. God gives every person, and in fact every city, country and many other entities, a guardian angel to be a special protector. That angel will look out for his charge and try to dissuade them from doing anything harmful, either physically or spiritually. It is a great idea to always remember our guardian angel and make it a habit to constantly ask for their protection. This prayer is a great way to do that. We have been given a special protector from God. Why not use that gift?
The morning offering is not necessarily a particular prayer or set of words, although there are a few formal options around, but it is simply a prayer offered at the beginning of each morning to dedicate one's day to God. No matter what happens during the day, everything should be done for the glory of God, and praying a morning offering when waking up is a great way to remind yourself of this and to tell God that you want to do everything for Him.
Act of Contrition
Unfortunately, people commit sins. Thankfully, God is a merciful God and is willing to forgive our sins if we are sorry for them. Contrition is expressing sorrow for sin. An act of contrition is a great prayer to offer at any time, but particularly at the end of the day when examining one's conscience for the day. It should also be prayed if one has committed a mortal sin and it is part of the rite of confession.
The Te Deum is a prayer of thanksgiving. It is an ancient prayer/hymn, probably composed around the time of St. Ambrose in the late 4th century. It is used in the Liturgy of the Hours and at joyful occasions, such as the ordination of a bishop, the election of the pope or a canonization.
This prayer is taken directly from the first chapter of the gospel of Luke, and it is the prayer of Mary in response to the greeting of Elizabeth. She praises God for the many and great gifts He has bestowed upon her. This prayer is prayed every day as the concluding prayer of vespers, or evening prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours.
There are many litanies to God, Mary and all sorts of saints. A litany is a list of invocations asking the person to whom the litany is addressed to pray for us. If it is a litany addressed to a particular person, each invocation often recalls some virtue or aspect of that person's life. Many litanies are prayed as part of private devotion, although some are used in the liturgy.
A novena is a prayer for nine consecutive days offered for some specific intention. As with litanies, there are novenas for every sort of intention and directed towards God, Mary and many saints. Most novenas are prayed privately, although sometimes communities or churches will offer a public novena for some common intention.
Act of Faith
This is a beautiful prayer to affirm one's belief in God. Faith can seem so simple, and yet it requires a great amount of grace and an acceptance with the will. Faith at sometimes can be hard and there can be points in life when faith in God seems pointless. It is at these times when the act of faith is most beneficial. Even if we are suffering, praying this act of faith and re-affirming our belief in God can be strengthening in spirit and remind us of why we live.
Act of Hope
The act of hope gives us a reason for living, and reminds us of our ultimate goal, Heaven. When there is much suffering occurring in our lives, it can be difficult to remember why we live or that we have a higher purpose in life and that there is something after death. The act of hope reminds us to keep our eyes on the goal of Heaven and to do everything with an eye towards that goal.
Act of Love
God loves each one of us unconditionally, and we are called to love Him and our neighbor with the same type of love. This prayer reminds us to continually make conscious choices to be loving to God and our neighbor.
Prayer before a Crucifix
Seeing a crucifix reminds us that Jesus died on the cross to redeem us from our sins. This great act of love on His part should inspire in us an act of love, devotion and gratitude towards Him for His great love and sacrifice on our behalf. This prayer asks for forgiveness for our sins and brings to mind the immense suffering which Jesus underwent for our sake. It is especially great to pray this during Lent, on Fridays. If this prayer is recited on Fridays of Lent after receiving communion, a plenary indulgence is gained, under the usual conditions.
This psalm is the most well-known psalm and is one of the most well-known prayers and verses from the entire Bible. It is a beautiful depiction of God as a shepherd and human beings as His sheep. He cares for them and watches out for them just like a shepherd. This is a loving image of God, but it takes on even more meaning in consideration of Jesus calling Himself the good shepherd in the gospels. The significance of this imagery is very important. If we follow Jesus and God and listen to His words, we will always be led to where we need to go and do what we need to do.
Divine Mercy Chaplet
The divine mercy chaplet originated with St. Faustina of Poland. She received a vision from Jesus asking her to spread devotion to His divine mercy. This chaplet was one of the main ways that a person could appeal to God's mercy on a regular basis. It is prayed on a set of rosary beads, but with different prayers on the large small beads. It is especially powerful to pray it at 3pm each day, for that is the time of Jesus' death and the hour of mercy.