To avoid simply falling into routine it is good for those who pray regularly to evaluate from time to time the quality of their prayer. What criteria should one use when trying to assess how well they are doing?  We should start by excluding criteria that are unreliable.  Among the criteria one should not employ are (1) facility in praying, (2) feelings, (3) absence of distractions. Using any one of those as a criterion would be unreliable.

While facility in praying may be pleasant, it is not a good measure of the quality of prayer. It is not uncommon for people to believe that prayer would flow out of them almost without effort if they were truly Christian.  But progress in prayer is not spontaneous and effortless.  It is both something we learn and a gift/grace.  Like all learning it requires serious effort.  Like any gift,     it requires gracious acceptance.

Feelings are certainly not a good measure of the quality of prayer.  If there is one thing found in every writing on prayer it is that feelings are not a reliable measure of the value of prayer.

The quality of prayer should not be judged by the absence of distractions, as though the fewer -distractions, the better the prayer. Given our human nature, the struggle with distractions is on-going.  The challenge is to keep starting over.  A Hindu sage put it quite well, saying: “We can’t stop birds from flying around our heads but we can prevent them from building a nest in our hair.”

If the above are not good measures, what can serve as a reliable measure?  We would do well to evaluate our prayer] by its purpose and by its fruits.

We can identify many purposes in our praying.  We pray for many different things.  The real issue is whether we are praying to achieve merit or some particular favor or whether our prayer grows out of faith and a desire to draw closer to God.

A second way to evaluate our prayer is by its fruits.  In his letter to the Galatians (5: 22) St. Paul tells us: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.”  That’s a good list to consider when we are trying to decide whether or not our prayer has real value.

The final test is whether or not our prayer leads us to live more fully according to the gospel message.