For Christians, prayer is at the heart of divine liturgy and daily life. If prayer is the lifeline of communication with God, why do so many people struggle with it? Why is it so difficult to start praying and to keep it going? If God is always listening and responding, why is it so hard for us to find the words to say and the ways to listen?
Fortunately, Jesus had an answer when His own Apostles asked for help in praying: He taught them the Our Father. Christ reminded them that they were never alone in prayer because God loves them as a Father. He has the same answer for you, too.
Prayer is a quest. It is a journey you embark upon to encounter Jesus, to grow daily in friendship with him, and to give witness to him before others.
While you struggle and seek God in prayer, He is already on the lookout for you. One foundation of prayer, perhaps, is to put yourself in a place where you can be found. Here are a few basics to try as you journey closer to God.
1. Find the space
Choose a location
Find a physical space: a room in your house, your parish church, a Eucharistic adoration chapel or your car during your morning commute. Carve out some space in your noisy surroundings that will help you speak to God and to listen to Him.
Dedicate your day
Start your day with the sign of the cross, even lying in bed before your feet hit the floor. Remind yourself that because of the Cross and the Resurrection, you belong to God: Father, Son and Spirit. Each night, pray for the faithful departed, especially from your family and friends.
Express your gratitude
Every morning, praise God for the gift of the day. As evening falls, thank God for the blessings of the day. As the light of day fades, pray for the light of the Holy Spirit to review your day. Pray with gratitude for the times when you felt God’s presence and did God’s will; pray for forgiveness for the times that you did not.
2. Find the Scriptures
Read the Gospels
Read and pray with the Gospel for Mass on Sundays or feast days. Even better, read it with your family and friends!
Reflect on what you heard in prayer, what the priest said during the homily and what others in your family and friends experienced.
Ask God throughout the week to open your heart to the particular word that He wants to speak to you and to the response He is asking from you.
Pray the psalms
The Psalms serve as God’s prayer book; He gave you the perfect words to talk to Him! As divine words, the Psalms also speak to every real human experience: love and loss, joy and sadness, expectation and regret, victory and defeat. Jesus speaks to you in the Psalms, but he also speaks through you when you use them to pray to the Father.
There are 150 Psalms, so you could pray one each day and easily get through the whole book of Psalms twice in a year. (You can even afford to miss a few days. And be prepared when you get to Psalm 119!)
3. Find the saints
The saints were ordinary people in whom God’s grace was extraordinarily active. Many of them wrote and spoke honestly about the struggles and successes of their prayer. Many of them knew fellow saints to share their experiences. Now, the saints are in the perfect place in heaven to intercede for you and to help you improve your prayer. You literally have friends in high places!
Foster a devotion
Develop a devotion to Our Lady or a saint who is your patron either in name, by occupation or vocation in life or by interest. Learn the prayers associated with the saint, and seek his or her help and intercession.
Pray a novena
Pray a novena (nine days of prayer) leading up to the feast of your patron or favorite saint. Take time each day to learn from their example in relying on the Lord and growing in spiritual discipline and gratitude.
Don’t forget your guardian angel. This rhyming, easy-to-memorize prayer is an effective and powerful weapon against temptation and darkness, for children and adults alike.
4. Find the Spirit
Before Pentecost, the disciples prayed in expectation for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Before our archdiocesan synod, the entire archdiocese did the same. Archbishop Vigneron reminds us in Unleash the Gospel, “Prayer is the way we access the unlimited divine power of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate” (Guidepost 10).
Never forget to call upon the Holy Spirit and beg Him for a rich and deep prayer life. In fact, don’t wait. Pray for it right now!
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful.
Enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.