For many of us, prayer can feel haphazard, hurried, and at times even empty. It’s often the first thing we cut out of a busy day. Most Christians, if pressed, would likely admit to wishing they had a stronger prayer life. And because conversion is a lifelong process, no one’s prayer life—not even a saint’s—is perfect.
Today, we want to share with you some tried-and-true tips for building a daily habit of prayer into your life, and making your prayer time the most important and meaningful time in your day.
Make the time.
“It is not particularly difficult to find thousands who will spend two or three hours a day exercising, but if you ask them to bend their knees to God for five minutes of prayer, they protest that it is too long.”--Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen
Regardless of how busy you are, it is possible to find time to pray. But in a world where distractions are rife and silence is rare, it takes work to make space for what matters most. This evening, do a mental inventory of how you spent your day. How much time did you spend checking email? Aimlessly scrolling through social media? Surfing the internet without a clear goal in mind? Watching TV? After doing this inventory, chances are you can find at least ten minutes a day that you could spend with the Lord. You may even find that the Lord expands your time for work and other obligations when you give him the firstfruits of your time.
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” –St. Therese of Lisieux
If you’re not in the habit of daily prayer yet, it’s probably not a good idea to attempt a 30 minute or hour long prayer time right off the bat. Start small, with five or ten minutes of praying with Scripture, a morning offering, a decade of the rosary, or a prayer of thanksgiving. Prayer does not need to be long or complicated to be meaningful. Consider also that throughout the day there are ample opportunities to lift your heart to the Lord, whether it’s a short, “Lord, help me!” in the midst of a crisis or a simple “Thank you, Jesus,” for an unexpected grace.
Keep supplies handy.
“Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.” --St. Teresa of Avila
St. Teresa of Avila, a cloistered Carmelite nun whose daily life was filled with long periods of silent prayer, was known to always bring a spiritual book of some kind with her to the chapel, just in case she got “stuck” and needed something to refocus her attention on the Lord. If you find yourself not knowing quite what to say in prayer, consider meditating on the daily Mass readings, a daily devotional, or a paragraph or two from a spiritual classic like The Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. As you grow in your prayer life, you will find it easier and easier to put the book down and simply be with the Lord, which is the ultimate goal of all prayer.
“Prayer is a way of gradually purifying and correcting our wishes and of slowly coming to realize what we really need: God and his Spirit.” --Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Communal prayer is a hallmark of the Catholic life. The highest form of prayer in common is of course the Mass, but whenever we pray--even when we are physically alone--we pray with the entire Body of Christ. It stands to reason that if we want to grow in our prayer life, we need the help of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps this means that you ask a friend to be your prayer accountability partner. Perhaps it looks like praying with your spouse or children each night before bed. Or maybe the Lord is calling you to a deeper friendship with the Saints, who are not only excellent intercessors, but can also be our prayer partners.
Be not afraid.
When it comes to sharing our hearts with the Lord, we need not be afraid. He already knows our deepest, darkest secrets and the ugly places in our hearts that we don’t want anyone else to see. He knows our fears, he knows our hopes and dreams. But it does our hearts and souls so much good to share these things with Him, especially when we are afraid to. Our prayers do not have to be perfect to be heard, and the Lord desires us to share our entire selves with him: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Be bold, be honest, and be assured that the Lord desires to hear it all.
We hope these tips will help you as you seek a deeper relationship with the Lord, because He is always seeking a deeper relationship with each one of us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that, “The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him” (Paragraph 2560).