As joyful missionary disciples, prayer is vital and necessary for us. But sometimes prayer can even seem dry or pointless. Thankfully, our holy brothers and sisters in the faith — the saints — have great wisdom and insight into the role of prayer in our lives, how to dive into prayer and how to walk closely with the Lord in our day-to-day lives.
Starting with the basics: “What is prayer?
“Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in You.” -St. Augustine of Hippo
“Prayer is the place of refuge for every worry, a foundation for cheerfulness, a source of constant happiness, a protection against sadness.” -St. John Chrysostom
Prayer is time with God. Prayer is rest with God.
If we view prayer as a chore or something to cross off of our to-do list, we’re missing the point. We’re made for a relationship with God, and in that relationship, we’ll find the peace and joy we are always searching for. In prayer we find the One who offers us what our hearts long for. In prayer, we encounter God himself — truly, the deepest desire of our heart. St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom understood this.
A practical way to live a prayerful life is to make time for prayer every day.
- Ask God to transform your attitude toward prayer and give you a desire for prayer.
- Set aside 20-30 minutes at the beginning or end of your day to rest with the Lord.
- Keep a prayer journal close at hand to jot down what your heart ponders in prayer.
Praying with Scripture: “How should I pray?”
“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” -St. Jerome
“When you open the Holy Gospel, think that what is written there — the words and deeds of Christ — is something that you should not only know, but live. Everything, every point that is told there, has been gathered, detail-by-detail, for you to make it come alive in the individual circumstances of your life.” – St. Josemaría Escrivá
If you’ve ever wanted to know Jesus better and understand who God is and his love for you, Sacred Scripture is a treasured place to encounter God. The Church teaches that Sacred Scripture is the Living Word of God. That’s a big deal. Sacred Scripture is more than black ink on a cream page — rather, it is an active and living story of God’s love for you. And it has the power to speak directly to your heart. The Holy Spirit can pierce our hearts powerfully through the reading of Sacred Scripture. Our friends St. Jerome and St. Josemaría Escrivá loved Sacred Scripture and saw its power.
Practical ways to incorporate Sacred Scripture into your life:
- Buy a Bible! It’s the most important book you can have in your home.
- Learn Lectio Divina, an ancient way to enter into Scripture.
- Pray with the day’s Gospel on the USCCB website.
Praying before the Eucharist: “Where should I pray?”
“In that little Host is the solution to all the problems of the world.” -St. Pope John Paul II
“Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you – for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart.“ -St. Therese of Lisieux
Ultimately, we can find God in any situation. And we should create a space in our homes that is designated for prayer. A chair and a side table that we set aside for our time with God. Every disciple should have a sacred space in their homes where we regularly turn our hearts to God.
But we should also seek the Lord out in his eucharistic presence. Jesus is truly present — body, blood, soul and divinity — in the Eucharist. In every tabernacle, in every Catholic church — Jesus is present so that he can be close to you. St. John Paul II and St. Therese of Lisieux had a great love for Jesus in the Eucharist.
Practical ways to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist
- Decide to pray a eucharistic Holy Hour once a week.
- Make the sign of the Cross when you pass a Catholic Church to acknowledge Jesus’ Eucharistic presence.
- Research daily Masses in your area and attend throughout the week.
Praying with Mary: “Who is a good role model for prayer?”
“Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence.” -St. Francis de Sales
“Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.” -St. Padre Pio
Being good at something is difficult without role models and companions. Thankfully, the Blessed Mother is both. Mary not only carried Jesus in her own womb, but she shared life with him for the 30 years before his public ministry. And because she was spared from sin, Mary loved Jesus better than any other human. The Church tells us that Mary is our mother! We should turn to her as often as we need guidance, or encouragement. St. Francis de Sales and Padre Pio know this well.
Practical ways to incorporate Mary into our prayer lives:
- Pray the rosary daily.
- Ask the Blessed Mother to accompany you throughout your day
- Consider making a Marian Consecration.
Praying with perseverance: “What if I am tired of praying?”
“No one becomes perfect at once; but as from little faults we fall into great, so by the practice of lesser virtues we ascend into the heroic.” –Venerable Catherine McAuley
“Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know You, a heart to seek You, wisdom to find You, conduct pleasing to You, faithful perseverance in waiting for You, and a hope of finally embracing You.” -St. Thomas Aquinas
Prayer is like working out for the soul… it takes perseverance! Many times, you won’t feel like praying. That’s okay. Discouragement is not the end of the story. Sometimes, it’s in these moments that the most graces can be won in prayer. Perseverance in prayer is a gift from God, one we should ask for often. Our faithful saint friends knew this too.
Practical ways to grow in perseverance in prayer:
- Jealously guard the time you set aside for prayer. It’s precious! Don’t compromise your schedule or the time you chose to pray. Stick to your plan.
- When you feel tempted to end prayer early, pray for one minute longer
- Pick a prayer saint buddy and ask for his or her intercession when you feel like giving up
You can do it! Prayer is a journey and a challenge, but prayer is always worth it. Your body can’t live without oxygen, and your soul can’t live without prayer. Turn to prayer in times of struggle or distress. And turn to God in gratitude in joyful times. But do turn to him every day. Always make time to let God encounter you. Prayer is a commitment you won’t regret making. Prayer can change your life.