Daily prayer can be hard and intimidating, but these suggestions will help you make progress.
Prayer isn’t a question of “doing” but of “being with.” That said, our daily appointment with God can sometimes feel arduous. So if your prayer life could do with some livening and building up, priest and theologian Fr. Pierre Descouvemont suggests seven things you can do to improve your daily prayer life …
Give God joy
We accept God’s invitation to pray every day first to please Him. The Bible confirms it — we’re offered the amazing chance to contribute to God’s joy. He has no need of us since He is infinitely joyous in the heart of his Triune life. But he so loves us that he clamors for our paltry gestures of love. He makes himself “a beggar” in our hearts, as St. Thérèse of Lisieux put it.
We don’t persevere in prayer solely to receive the torrent of love overflowing from the heart of Christ, but for the pleasure of pleasing God. And, in that knowledge, suddenly our boredom isn’t quite so bad, aware that He is truly happy for this time offered to Him. We just need to ask for the grace to believe it.
We don’t pray running on empty, but by fueling up the tank. Take for example the monks who fueled their prayer with the famous lectio divina. They prayed by taking the Scriptures as their starting point. They took the time to listen to the Lord telling them time and again of His love through His Word. Many Christians complain of not managing to empty themselves before beginning their prayers. That’s normal: but we only empty in order to refuel.
Keeping silent doesn’t mean creating a vacuum. Just be careful not to let your mind wander to unwarranted reflections on the biblical texts or Scriptural authors you’ve just read. God has no need to hear a rhetorical exercise or a theological disquisition. The fewer words, the better! And they can be as simple as a child’s words: “Thank you, Lord! Forgive me! Please! My God, I love you!”
Let’s not imagine that to do it right we have to maintain absolute silence and say nothing. He who cries out, “Lord, why is my life so full of ordeals? I have such a hard time accepting Your will!” is as pleasing to God as he who is perfectly recollected. Our conversation with the Lord — listening, speaking, or keeping silent — must be as natural as time with someone you love.
So simple … and yet so difficult! It’s no surprise that we find it hard to pray. St. Paul himself didn’t hesitate to say, “We do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26). When we pray, it is the Holy Spirit praying within us. Even when we’re not aware of it, it is the Spirit that inspires our prayer, He is the soul of it, the breath that carries us up to the Father and makes us cry out, with and through Jesus, “Abba, Father!”
It is He who lets us savor the Love of the Father, who makes our hearts resound with, “You, you too, are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased!” So that we can say in full confidence to our God, “Thy tender mercies are without measure.” The Spirit is also, and above all, He who increases our spiritual lung power, that the Lord might fill us with blessings according to the measure of our hope in Him.
Make an effort
Prayer is an effort of the will, not only to set to it, but also to persevere in it … and, when we give up, to return to it. This effort can be achieved if, like a frail lamb in the arms of the Good Shepherd and under His watchful gaze, we seek to make Him smile.
Create a prayer corner
Arrange a corner in your home for images and sacramentals before which it will be easier to place yourself in God’s presence and pray in communion with all of your brothers and sisters, in heaven and on earth. The simple existence of a prayer corner reminds us of the need to prepare for the future rendezvous.
Make a retreat
It’s much easier to persevere in prayer if we’ve had the humility and courage to follow a veritable “school of prayer.” In order to ski well, we take classes. In the same way, to pray well it’s normal to take a few days out of your life to learn what our forefathers discovered through faith … and to keep practicing! In prayer, as elsewhere, an occasional refresher course or “booster shot” is invaluable.
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