I still remember it like it was yesterday.
When I was in college, I came across a young adult group associated with the Gabriel Richard campus at U-M Dearborn. While I never left the Church or had a crisis of faith, it was at this time I really began to make my Catholic faith my own — not just the faith of my parents.
I began going to the weekly eucharistic adoration Holy Hour. The first time I went I showed up with a full bag. As adoration began, I took out my Bible, journal and an additional 3-4 spiritual books. I never once looked at Jesus and busied myself with “spiritual things” for the next 55 minutes.
Afterwards, the priest gently pulled me aside asking why I brought so much “stuff.” He said, “Patty, you can’t talk to Jesus and his talk back to you with all that extra stuff you’re rotating through. You have to be still and stop talking so much.”
I slowly began to learn that the spiritual life of prayer is not how many holy things we do, but how we show up continually in stillness before Jesus — talking to him and then listening for his response back to us.
I am the furthest thing from an expert when it comes to what to do when you go to eucharistic adoration, but these might be some helpful ways to pray if you are new to spending time with Jesus in adoration.
1. Start with silence – I know what you might be thinking, “Silence?! Five minutes of total stillness would feel like torture. My mind keeps wandering and jumping around, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”
The older I get, the more I realize the deepest language of prayer begins and ends in silence. It is here we learn to still the restless worry of our lives, the day we lived. When we can be still with Jesus, we can ask him questions — What do you think about this, Jesus? How should I navigate that? — and then listen for his response in love.
If we’re always talking to God, how can we possibly learn to know what his voice sounds like?
Even if you spend your entire holy hour re-directing yourself from distractions, it is worth the discipline of showing up — and that is what a life of prayer is all about, to keep showing up.
2. Write in a journal – I have long loved the practice of keeping a spiritual journal. A place to keep insights, questions, senses I feel from the Lord, or what I hear/sense from God in my daily prayer.
I find having a journal or notebook to write in when I go to adoration, is a helpful way to keep track of where God is leading me in my daily life and prayer. It can also be a helpful practice to look back and see the ways God moved or spoke in my life and where I am growing in my spiritual life. If you have a spiritual director, sharing what you wrote down in your journal can also be a helpful account for your director to better understand you and know where to best support you.
3. Prayer Meditations – like the ‘I Am’ meditations – It is important to use prayer meditations when going to eucharistic adoration as a supporting role, not the primary way to pray or connect with God. Use them as an aid, but not the sole feature.
Maybe it is a spiritual book a close friend gave you or maybe it’s an app like Hallow. Or this podcast with Fr. Agustino Torres with helpful tips and hacks for getting the most out of your Adoration time. It can be beneficial to have several different resources when prayer feels dry or you feel curious to sit with an idea more deeply. Whether it is a book, app or Bible study, use options like these to support the prayer life you are developing. Remember, Jesus wants to hear from you in prayer — and he always, always wants to speak back to you.
4. Read the Gospels – The same priest who gave me a necessary spiritual kick in the pants back in college, also encouraged people new to prayer to start by reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus. He would give the analogy of a couple dating — that you have to really get to know the other person and spenda lot of quality time spent together before you decide if you want to make a lifetime commitment to them.
The same is true in our prayer lives and relationship with Jesus. How can you deepen your relationship with him, if you don’t really know him? You get to know Jesus by listening to his words — what he said, did and taught. You put yourself into the scenes of Scripture using all your spiritual senses. You let your creativity and imagination lead you to ask questions, sit in scenes and wonder in awe of the life and ministry of Jesus. The easiest access to that is to begin by reading the Gospels.
Mark is the shortest Gospel account which is a good place for some to begin, but my favorite account is either Luke or John. Ask the Holy Spirit where you should start, and then simply begin.
5. Surrender – I don’t know about you, but one of the hardest prayers for me is a prayer of surrender or “Jesus, I Trust in You.” And yet, I know how much I need it — to remember who God is in this relationship. I can offer my life to Jesus at 5 a.m. when I get up and by 8:35 a.m. the same day, I have taken it back, trying to control things in the way I think they should go.
I don’t care who you are, we all need more surrendering in our lives to Jesus. Sometimes I find the prayers of other people helpful like the prayer of abandonment or the prayer of Thomas Merton helpful when I can’t seem to find my own words. Sometimes something as simple as, “Jesus, I need your help. I can’t do this on my own. I surrender my life to you, give me the courage not to take it back.” The power of speaking directly to the heart of Jesus from one’s own heart is more powerful than the words of any expert in theology or spirituality.
Don’t surrender your life to Jesus just one time — keep doing so daily, all the time — and most especially when visiting him in eucharistic adoration.
The next time you make a visit to Eucharistic Adoration, try a new way of being with Jesus in your time. Where are you being invited to stretch outside of your spiritual comfort zone?
Don’t tell Jesus how you plan to spend the hour, ask him how he wants to spend the hour with you.