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10 Tips for profound and effective prayer

USN/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Daniel P. Jackson Norgart/Released-OSGW

160604-N-UD666-068 PACIFIC OCEAN (JUNE 4, 2016) Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Caitlin Mehaffey (left) prays during Roman Catholic Mass in USS Carl Vinson’s (CVN 70) chapel. The ship is underway conducting command assessment of readiness and training (CART) II off the coast of Southern California (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Daniel P. Jackson Norgart/Released)

Fr. Henry Vargas Holguín - published on 10/11/16

When and where should I pray? What words should I use?

Prayer is a personal and authentic encounter of faithful love. It renews us, it changes us, it gives us life. Everything else is extra.

Here are ten tips to help you pray: 

  1. Prayer is an expression of interior life. It consists in directing the powers of the soul (memory, intelligence and will) and their actions (knowing and loving) to the Holy Spirit which lives within us, and thus interacting with God the Father and God the Son.
  2. How long should I pray? Quality is more important than quantity, in the way we pray and the length of our prayer. For example, five minutes of prayer well done are worth more than two hours of half-hearted, insincere prayer.
  3. The person who has practically never prayed or who is not in the habit of praying cannot hope to start off by spending hours prostrate before the Lord. We have to start small.
  4. What should I say to God? Talk to God as to a friend. God is our Father and loves us as such, but at the same time He is our most faithful and best friend. We shouldn’t use contrived words, but rather be spontaneous.
  5. When should I pray? God waits for us in an ideal, concrete, and real way in the tabernacle, and so we can go to him there at any time. However, if we are somewhere else, all we have to do is turn our hearts to Him, because “the Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). Praying before the Blessed Sacrament is like talking face to face with a person we love, and praying to the Lord elsewhere is, if you will allow me to use this image, like talking to a person we love on the telephone.
  6. When we pray, we need to be centered, to concentrate. In order to concentrate, we have to make it easier for ourselves by choosing the most helpful environment, time, place, posture, etc. And to concentrate, we have to learn train our will through practice.
  7. The more we pray, the easier it is to concentrate, and the more we make a habit of avoiding and rejecting distractions while focusing on God.
  8. If we want to focus all our attention on God and there are stimuli that attract us and distract us (when there is something else that attracts our attention more than prayer) we need to use our willpower and do what has to be done.
  9. Silence is important.
  10. We need to learn how to ignore the inevitable distractions that try to make us abandon prayer. When something distracts us or makes us lose our concentration, we must not give it any importance. We have to ignore the distraction as serenely as possible and go back to our train of though in meditation or contemplation by means of a very natural conversation with God. It’s as simple as that. “To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to…” (Catechism, 2729)
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