Let’s talk about piety sprawls. That’s when someone takes a long prayer, such as the Rosary, and adds his or her own prayers to it. Suddenly, a 12-minute devotion takes 30 minutes to finish.
If you complain about the extra time, someone may retort, “You’re saying you have trouble with more prayers?” You’re left feeling like an impious bum when really you may just want to contemplate the Rosary without falling asleep.
Here are a few reasons why adding to already-established prayers is not always a good idea.
God gives us grace in a way our human nature can receive it.
While God’s grace is above our human nature, it still interacts with us in a way that is compatible with that nature. We have many requirements, such as food and sleep.
Prayers usually impact us the most when they have a human shape. For example, if someone asks you to recite a 19-hour prayer, you’d rightfully decline. That prayer doesn’t have a human shape — it doesn’t fit in with the rest of your life. Most people need to sleep more than five hours a night, so a 19-hour prayer wouldn’t work.
God wants you to pray, eat, sleep, work, recreate, and spend time with loved ones. You shouldn’t let prayers take you away from other duties.
Longer is not always better.
If love motivates you to pray longer, then that prayer is beautiful and powerful. But it’s pure superstition to think that a prayer is more efficacious just because it’s longer.
There occasionally are times when you need to put a bit more into prayers than usual. But if you’re exhausting and frustrating yourself by saying four complete Rosaries every day, it’s time to cut back. It’s better to say short prayers devoutly than to say longer ones half-heartedly.
Avoid piety sprawls in prayer groups.
Not everyone has the same prayer capacity. Some people can easily say four Rosaries a day. Others barely get by with one. If you’re praying with a group — say, at Holy Hour — keep this in mind and avoid adding material to established prayers.
Ultimately, we are saved by the mysteries of the life of Christ. The best prayers are the ones that help us enter more deeply into these mysteries. If you can accomplish that with shorter prayers, stick to those. God will judge you on your love, not your verbal score.