5 – Prayer: A Short Road to Perfection


After talking about almsgiving, Jesus talks about prayer and gives his disciples the Our Father.

A prayer rule is something that can help Christians to have focus throughout their day, and to help them structure their prayer life so as to maintain a focus on God. there have been many different prayer rules throughout the ages, and it is always good to cultivate one for yourself in conjunction with a Spiritual Director.

About 3-4 years ago, my Spiritual Director gave me the following as a prayer rule. It is called ‘A Short Road to Perfection’, and was written by Saint John Henry Newman. I include it below in full, as it may serve as a point of interest or as a good starting point for you also.

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It is the saying of holy men that, if we wish to be perfect, we have nothing more to do than to perform the ordinary duties of the day well. A short road to perfection-short, not because easy, but because pertinent and intelligible. There are no short ways to perfection, but there are sure ones.

I think this is an instruction which may be of great practical use to persons like ourselves. It is easy to have vague ideas what perfection is, which serve well enough to talk about, when we do not intend to aim at it; but as soon as a person really desires and sets about seeking it himself, he is dissatisfied with anything but what is tangible and clear, and constitutes some sort of direction towards the practice of it.

We must bear in mind what is meant by perfection. It does not mean any extraordinary service, anything out of the way, or especially heroic-not all have the opportunity of heroic acts, of sufferings-but it means what the word perfection ordinarily means. By perfect we mean that which has no flaw in it, that which is complete, that which is consistent, that which is sound-we mean the opposite to imperfect. As we know well what imperfection in religious service means, we know by the contrast what is meant by perfection.

He, then, is perfect who does the work of the day perfectly, and we need not go beyond this to seek for perfection. You need not go out of the round of the day.

I insist on this because I think it will simplify our views, and fix our exertions on a definite aim.

If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first:

  • Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising;
  • give your first thoughts to God;
  • make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament;
  • say the Angelus devoutly;
  • eat and drink to God’s glory;
  • say the Rosary well;
  • be recollected; keep out bad thoughts;
  • make your evening meditation well;
  • examine yourself daily;
  • go to bed in good time,

and you are already perfect.