The fact that prayer is incredibly powerful cannot be denied.
We meet God in prayer, and though it seems as if prayer will not change the world, it will, because prayer can make saints and saints change the world.
Prayer corresponds to three of our inmost needs: our need for truth, for goodness, and for beauty. As human beings, we starve for these three things because they are the things we need most–they are the three attributes of God Himself. As such, prayer is an important aspect of living.
If sincere prayer is so powerful, then why do must of us fail to pray on a regular basis? Most of us have similar reasons for why we don’t pray.
Today I am offering a response to three of the most common ones, in hopes of inspiring change when it comes to this very important spiritual practice.
1. “I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME.”
This is one of the most common reasons for why people do not pray more. We are all so busy! We face countless items on our to-do list, constant interruptions, and many different obligations on a day-to-day basis. We have bills to pay, places to go, family to take care of, and a whole bunch of other things taking our time and attention! Finding time for prayer in all this busyness can seem overwhelming, at times impossible, and hardly exciting to think about when we already have so much on our plate.
Yet, there nevertheless remains that desire in our heart for communion with the One who created us. It’s that longing to be loved in the way only He can love us, to be seen, understood and heard. It’s that restlessness we have in our hearts for more and for greatness, and only God can truly fill us. This is why making time for prayer is so essential, even when we find that our days are already filled to capacity.
Here are some ways that you can find time in your day for prayer:
-Start by adding prayer into the natural rhythm of your day.
All of us have a daily rhythm of some sort, and we can use that rhythm to mark the times in our day where we turn to God in prayer.
Begin by sprinkling little prayers into your day at certain consistent times, in order to develop your awareness of God.
For instance, along with your morning coffee or commute, make a morning offering to the Lord. Before you begin your work for the day, say a prayer that you might stay grounded in His presence. When you sit down to eat lunch and dinner, say grace before your meal. In the middle of your day, pray the Angelus. At night, make a daily examination of conscience.
Begin by adding one or two of these prayers into your day, and it will bring a greater awareness of God’s presence into your life, and open you up to the habit of prayer.
Don’t be random about it, but be intentional. While you don’t have to use the prayers mentioned above, (you can certainly pray at similar times of the day using your own words), the traditional Catholic prayers mentioned are wonderful because you won’t have to struggle finding your own words, and they express the simple truths of the faith that we all can relate to! Plus, you can take the traditional prayers and build upon them, making them unique for yourself!
All of these prayers are quick to pray, taking no more than 5-10 minutes each. Even if you chose to you pray all of the prayers mentioned above, you’d only be adding around 25 minutes of prayer to your day!
Matching your prayers to the rhythm of your day is an easy way to incorporate prayer into your busy schedule, and it will have a dramatic impact on your life!
-Be on the lookout for time-suckers.
There are so many things in our days that we give a lot of time to that don’t really bring us authentic joy or inner peace. Yet we willingly giving a lot of our time to these things anyhow.
How much time do you spend scrolling the internet and social media? How much time do you spend watching TV a day? These things are not bad in themselves, but when we give too much time to them, or preference them above things that are good for us, they can become draining.
If you spend a lot of time on these things, cut back on them at least 15-20 minutes a day. Instead of picking up your phone to scroll, pick up a pocket prayer book, or read the Bible for a few minutes. Instead of spending too much time on social media, read the daily readings from Mass, or pray a decade of the rosary. Instead of binge watching tv at the end of the day, watch one episode, and use the rest of your time to make a daily examination of conscience. Place apps on your phone so that you can easily find traditional prayers while you are building up the habit of prayer. (Check out this link to find a list of great catholic apps).
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Being a bit more intentional about how you spend your time is a simple way to find more time for prayer in your day.
2. “CONSISTENCY IS HARD TO MAINTAIN.”
We live in a world of distractions and it is so easy to lose consistency in our life of prayer. In order to maintain consistency, consider doing the following:
–Make a commitment and show up daily.
Incorporate specific prayers into your life and pray them at certain times of day that you find it easiest to pray, and do it on a daily basis.
You are always going to have to comb your hair, pour your coffee (a necessity in life), drive to work, feed your children breakfast, etc. Decide which of these daily activities work best to pair with prayer, and make a commitment to doing them daily.
-Plan ahead of time.
Think ahead of the specific prayers you want to incorporate into your day, write them down, and take those prayers with you (until you have them memorized) so that you have them when you need them.
Commit to certain prayers for a couple of weeks at a time, and either switch up the prayers you choose, or add new ones into your day. In order to build a consistent life of prayer, you have to first make it a habit and find a steady awareness of God’s presence in your life.
3. “PRAYER IS TOO DIFFICULT AND DOESN’T FEEL AUTHENTIC.”
-Don’t chase distractions.
We all face distractions in our life of prayer. All of the stuff we have on our plates filters into our prayer, interrupting our time with God and calling us back to it’s attention. Sometimes it can hardly feel authentic praying, because we end up thinking about ourselves the majority of the time, or about our never ending to-do list!
If distraction is the thing that is getting in your way, remember that you are not alone in this. When distractions occur in your prayer, try and turn your heart back to God when they set in. (As the Catechism says, to hunt them down would be to “fall into their trap!”) Mindfully turn back to God when you need to, and remember that quieting your mind and tuning into God’s presence will take practice and time. It may not happen right away, but as you continue to try it will become easier to turn away from those distractions that are pulling for your attention.
-Know that God hears you and that He loves you.
When it comes to prayer, we often think that it is us reaching out towards God, who may or may not be listening.
I encourage you to reframe the way you think about prayer.
Prayer is not a reaching out towards God, but a response to the God who loves you, knows you, and is listening intently to the stirrings in your heart.
God is calling you before you ever even turn towards Him. He is not One who is bothered or interrupted by you, but He is tirelessly waiting for you to just turn to Him and respond to His initiative of love.
As you pray and turn to him on a daily basis, God will gradually reveal Himself to you. As the Catechism says, prayer will become “a reciprocal drama,” where you encounter God and He encounters you.
He wants to know about your life, and He is starving for your love. When you offer Him your needs, works, joys, and sufferings…He hears you, because He loves you deeply.
Don’t forget that. He loves you first.
–It doesn’t matter HOW you pray, but THAT you pray.
There is not one single “method” of praying that is “right.” Though the Mass is the highest form of prayer (because it is where we encounter Christ Himself, in the Most Holy Eucharist), there are all sorts of ways that you can make prayer a part of your day.
You can listen to worship music and meditate on the lyrics. (I love doing this to Audrey Assad’s music.) You can read and reflect on spiritual readings, like the Bible, or the writings of the saints. You can pray the daily prayers of the Mass, vocally or quietly in your heart. You can pray in community with others, or pray in the silence of your room. You can pray a rosary, liturgy of the hours, or a few simple prayers throughout your day.
There are also all kinds of places that you can pray.
You can pray in a church, in an adoration chapel, or in a prayer group. You can even pray in your car, on a bus, in your kitchen while doing the dishes, in your living room while folding the laundry, or even in the gym while exercising, etc.
You can make your whole life a prayer to God!
Prayer is about developing your will to make a dwelling-place for God in your heart. It is there that we encounter God and live in relationship with Him, and in order to make room for Him, we merely have to be intentional about it.
Intentionality is what will awaken you awareness that God is always with you, that He loves you more than anything, that He sees you and understands your heart, and that He wants to walk with you in your journey of life.
This is what makes prayer exciting, and definitely worthwhile.
I hope that these tips help, but if you try them and are still struggling with prayer, I encourage you to humbly come before God and ask Him to awaken in you a great love for Him. The battle of dryness in prayer requires a conversion of heart. Ask God to bless you with a love for Him that will purify your intentions and lead you away from the things of this world, back towards Him.
Remember that some of the greatest saints experienced dryness, distraction, and struggles in their prayer life, so you are not alone.
Pray for perseverance, persistence, and for a humble heart that is always ready to come before God, even when it is difficult!
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