Listers, in his epistle to the Catholics in Thessalonica, St. Paul encouraged them to be in a constant state of prayer. He wrote, “Always rejoice. Pray without ceasing. In all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you all. Extinguish not the spirit.”1 In her attempt to follow this mandate, Holy Mother Church has over the centuries developed thousands of prayers and devotions for the Faithful to use. Along with the two public prayers of the Church – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass & the Liturgy of the Hours – there are plenty of incredible short invocations that a Catholic can whisper under his or her breath throughout the day. Whether its right before you walk in to give a presentation and you whisper Come Holy Spirit, or right after that car narrowly misses you on the highway and with a sigh of relief you say Domine non sum dignus. The opportunity to pray throughout the day is ever-present, but often times we are not sure what to pray. The following list is a primer of the many short prayers Catholics can say throughout the day for a variety of occasions.2
1. Come Holy Spirit
Under the heading of Come Holy Spirit, the Catechism of the Catholic Church comments on this short invocation:
“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Every time we begin to pray to Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who draws us on the way of prayer by his prevenient grace. Since he teaches us to pray by recalling Christ, how could we not pray to the Spirit too? That is why the Church invites us to call upon the Holy Spirit every day, especially at the beginning and the end of every important action.
If the Spirit should not be worshiped, how can he divinize me through Baptism? If he should be worshiped, should he not be the object of adoration?
The traditional form of petition to the Holy Spirit is to invoke the Father through Christ our Lord to give us the Consoler Spirit.23 Jesus insists on this petition to be made in his name at the very moment when he promises the gift of the Spirit of Truth.24 But the simplest and most direct prayer is also traditional, “Come, Holy Spirit,” and every liturgical tradition has developed it in antiphons and hymns.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Heavenly King, Consoler Spirit, Spirit of Truth, present everywhere and filling all things, treasure of all good and source of all life, come dwell in us, cleanse and save us, you who are All Good.
The Holy Spirit, whose anointing permeates our whole being, is the interior Master of Christian prayer. He is the artisan of the living tradition of prayer. To be sure, there are as many paths of prayer as there are persons who pray, but it is the same Spirit acting in all and with all. It is in the communion of the Holy Spirit that Christian prayer is prayer in the Church.
Though Come Holy Spirit is woven throughout many Catholic prayers, one of the more popular uses is in the following invocation:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.
V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray. O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.3
2. Thy will be done.
The short prayer thy will be done invokes the prayer our Savior taught us – the Lord’s Prayer. Though saying the invocation softly under your breadth certainly calls to mind the entirely of the Lord’s Prayer, the specific line reads in full – thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.4
3. My God and my all.
Deus meus et omnia! The short invocation my God and my all has a long history in the Church and currently serves as a motto within the Franciscan Order. The origin of the phrase from a Franciscan perspective comes from a story about St. Francis staying up all night in prayer. The good saint, “lifting up his eyes and hands to heaven, and saying, with great devotion and fervor: ‘My God, my God’. And so saying and weeping continually, he abode even until morning, always repeating: ‘My God, my God,’ and nothing else.”5
4. Domine non sum dignus.
The Domine non sum dignus prayer – Lord, I am not worthy – is a longstanding acknowledgement of one’s unworthiness to receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. While that is certainly its most proper context, it can be used during the week as we ask for grace or experience some unexpected mercy.
5. O Heart of Jesus, all for Thee.
This short petition to the Heart of Jesus certainly shares similar characteristics to the prayers uttered in the Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. While this specific line is not mentioned, any of the lines within the litany could also serve as short invocations. For example:
Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, abode of justice and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts, have mercy on us.
Many find the imagery surrounding the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to be stunning and certainly something on which it is worthy to mediate. These short invocations – though part of a larger devotion – can be an excellent way to incorporate the Sacred Heart into your day. Praying Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us is another excellent short invocation.
6. O God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
The short prayer is taken directly from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. The passage in pertinent part reads:
The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner.6
The phrase is also incorporated into the Jesus Prayer – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. While worthy of an entire independent conversation, the importance of the Jesus Prayer in Eastern Christianity is analogous to the prominence of the Hail Mary in the West. In Latin, this prayer reads – Domine Iesu Christe, Filius Dei, miserere me peccatorem.
7. Sit nomen Dómini benedíctum!
Blessed be the Name of the Lord! According to Fisheaters, “this prayer is a reparation for blasphemy. If one hears someone take the Name of the Lord in vain, it is good to say this prayer. The response to this prayer is “ex hoc nunc, et usque in sæculum!” (“from this time forth for evermore!”) or “per ómnia saecula saeculórum” (“unto ages of ages”).”7
8. All you holy men and women of God, pray for us.
Along with this invocation to all of the saints, any petition to any saint serves as an excellent short prayer. Which saint should you have pray for you? Each saint has a patronage over some area in life. St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron of academics and often prayed to by students and professors alike. St. Ambrose is a patron of students but also of bee keepers and domestic animals. St. Catherina of Siena is the patron against fire, miscarriages, and sexual temptation. Do not make the mistake the protestants do. Saints are not demigods over certain aspects of Creation. Imagine you struggle with alcoholism and you have a friend who did as well but has now been sober for over twenty years. Would you not go to him for prayer? His experience and virtue in this area seasons his prayers to God. He is intimately aware of the struggles you face. So too with the patronages of the saints. Their purview is predicated according to their experiences they had in life. A student does not pray to St. Thomas Aquinas, because the Angelic Doctor is the demigod of academics. He prays to him because his experience and virtue in academics lends him an excellent soul to join the student in prayer before God. Invoking the saints and particularly your personal patron saint throughout the day is an excellent practice.
9. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Do not overlook this prayer. Like all commonly used prayers, it is in danger of becoming hackneyed. Invoking the Most Holy Trinity and making the sign of the cross is an excellent way to for a Catholic to bless themselves as they go about their day.
10. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
A wonderful prayer from the Roman Rituale included in both litanies and in prayers used while saying the Holy Rosary.
More on Prayer
- 5 Prayers Recommended by an Exorcist to Combat Evil
- Why Does God Not Grant All Our Prayers? – 27 Basic Questions on Prayer
- 8 Prayers to Help You through the Workday
- The 8 Prayers Every Catholic Should Know in Latin
- 3 Prayers by St. Thomas More for Catholic Lawyers
- I Thess. 5:16-19, DR. [↩]
- Timing of Prayers: The prayers are listed in order from shortest to longest, and the timing is certainly not scientific – unless you count sitting at a coffee shop with an iPhone timer scientific. [↩]
- Latin: Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem accende. V. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur. R. Et renovabis faciem terrae. Oremus. Deus, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere; et de eius semper consolatione gaudere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen. [↩]
- Catechism of the Catholic Church (“CCC”) on the Lord’s Prayer. [↩]
- Source: The Story of Deus meus et Omnia in the Franciscan Tradition. [↩]
- Luke 18:11-13, DR. [↩]
- Fisheaters – A handful of the prayers in this list were adopted from the longer list of short invocations listed on the traditional Catholic site Fisheaters. [↩]