If you’ve never had the opportunity to participate in extended devotions like the Rosary, it’s easy to feel intimidated. It might even seem like you’re caught in a vicious cycle — discussion of the Rosary and of prayer doesn’t make sense to those without a spirit of constant prayer, but you can’t develop a spirit of constant prayer if you never start praying!
Thankfully, there are a number of important insights that we can draw about prayer from the Hail Mary itself.
The first thing to note about the Hail Mary is its name, which is identical to the first two words of the prayer. These two simple words teach us an important lesson about how to begin a prayer. We start with the words “Hail Mary” because we understand that Mary has already rushed in to help us even before we began our prayer. The first two words of the Lord’s Prayer — “Our Father” — follow a similar pattern. We should always begin a prayer by acknowledging the fact that our ability to pray reflects the help we have already been given.
Another insight can be drawn from the structure of the prayer. The Hail Mary is a two part prayer, and these two parts hinge on the name “Jesus.” In a very real way, Jesus is the centerpiece of the Hail Mary!
The centrality of Jesus in the Hail Mary offers a wonderful clue to the nature of constant prayer. The name Jesus means, “God saves.” Constant, spontaneous prayer might seem like an impossibly high standard, but it can be as simple as maintaining a constant awareness that “God saves” and asking Him for help. After all, practically everyone has said “O God!” “God save us!” or “God help me!” at some point. Even calling the name Jesus or acknowledging His presence can be enough. All you really need to do to foster constant prayer is to mean it!
Of course, once you begin to develop a consistent prayer life, there is a great deal more that you can learn about the Hail Mary. The writings of St. Louis de Montfort, especially The Secret of the Rosary and True Devotion to Mary, provide much deeper insights about the true importance of the Hail Mary.
God help us!