Do you have a dedicated time and place for mental prayer? (Photo from Pixabay.)

Do you have a dedicated time and place for mental prayer? (Photo from Pixabay.)

My Prairie Catholic column for November.

When did you last spend time alone with God? Do you have a daily prayer routine? If not, how and why should you start one?

Sometimes people tell me that they do not have a set prayer time. Instead, they try to pray throughout the day. Praying throughout the day is an important part of growing closer to God, “But we cannot pray ‘at all times’ if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it” (CCC 2697). Without these anchors of prayer, praying throughout the day may be no more than a wish.

Don’t be too busy for the one thing necessary

Modern life is overcrowded with things we “must” do. Who among us would not describe himself as “too busy”? How can we possibly take time out to pray?

St. Francis de Sales wrote, “Prayer…is so useful and necessary that without it we could not come to any good, seeing that by means of prayer we are shown how to perform all our actions well” (Sermons on Prayer). Instead of seeing prayer as an interruption to our actions, we should view it as the power source for performing those actions in accordance with God’s will.

Our life in Christ begins with the sacraments. We attend Mass and receive the Eucharist on Sunday, in which Jesus nourishes us with his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. From Sunday to Sunday, prayer helps us remain in God’s grace. It keeps our eyes fixed on him and prepares us for an even more fruitful communion the next week.

Where do you start?

God does not demand that we begin with an hour of daily prayer. Fifteen minutes will do to start. Surely we can find a spare fifteen minutes! Can we set the alarm fifteen minutes earlier, skip watching the evening news, or put aside our cell phones for a bit? How about having the whole family pray or read quietly at the same time every day?

Praying at a consistent time and place helps us form a habit. Every new habit is hard to establish. Yet after just a few weeks of effort, we wonder why we waited so long. Soon praying becomes as necessary to our routine as eating. We learn to cherish those moments alone with the Savior.

As we pray more often, we become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance throughout our day. We check ourselves before gossip passes our lips. We say “thank you” to the cashier at the grocery store. We have a better attitude at work. We notice when someone else needs a hug. In other words, we become more fully converted. We grow closer to God and to one another.

Intimacy with God

God wants to have an intimate relationship with each of us, more intimate than that of a human husband and wife. Prayer is a communion with God that grows ever closer, strengthened by the sacraments and virtuous living. In other words, the sacraments, prayer, and our choices outside of prayer reinforce and support one another. Remove any one of the three, and our relationship with God grows cold.

“Prayer is a vital necessity. Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: if we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin” (CCC 2744). Let us all commit ourselves to be more constant and attentive in prayer. Prayer will transform us and enable us to help transform the world.

Connie Rossini

Written by Connie Rossini
Hi, I'm a Catholic writer and homeschool mother of four boys. I practice Carmelite spirituality. Check out my Books page for publications to help your whole family grow in holiness.

    4 Comments

  1. Alyosha November 12, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    This is very good advice. This is a topic I have struggled with a lot over years — in the context of Buddhist meditation (but the challenges are very similar). The following are some of my thoughts:

    1. A daily practice (even ten minutes a day) leads us toward a different approach to prayer / meditation than practicing just when the mood strikes. There is nothing wrong with practice on the spur of the moment — but with spur of the moment practice there a slight tendency to treat prayer / meditation is if we were taking an aspirin for a headache. We tend to practice when we are in a given mood — a joyful mood or a depressed mood — so those are the only states of mind we bring to the practice. With a daily practice, we bring with us whatever is happening that day — joy, boredom, sadness, anxiety, sleepiness. Over time, we bring the full range of life experience to spiritual practice. There is also slightly less of a tendency to practice with a goal oriented idea — seeking help for a difficult state of mind — and more openness to the practice. I don’t mean to say that goal oriented practice is necessarily bad — but it can be a little limiting.

    2. Daily practice harnesses the power of habit. It gets easier. The push to practice slowly turns to a pull toward practice. And it just takes setting an alarm clock ten minutes earlier in the morning.

    3. Daily practice carries over more powerfully into our day — like a perfume it begins to pervade our mind even in busy times of the day.

    4. Setting up a shrine as a place to practice can help — or having a ritual — lighting a candle or some incense. Even just having a picture on a table can help.

    5. Practicing with others can be a real encouragement. Although practicing alone can be where the practice becomes yours — or you begin belong to the discipline. Discipline can be joyful..

    • Connie Rossini November 12, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      Thank you, Alyosha! The only one of your points that I personally find does not work as well for Christian prayer is #5. Mental prayer can be practiced communally, but on a regular basis it is really best practiced alone. I find it a very intimate experience, so that I would rather prayer in my room with the door closed than in front of the Blessed Sacrament–unless I am pretty sure I will be alone in the Adoration chapel. This is certainly at least in part due to my temperament, which is very reserved. A variation would be for an entire family or religious community to pray at the same time, but in their individual rooms or cells. I love to see how much we have in common, so keep commenting.

  2. maxinita November 14, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Thank you for this reminder. I do need to actively schedule time in and get creative about it. 🙂 My littles seem to sense when I’m awake and wake up as early as I do-even if it’s 5 am. The days I’m able to get up before them and get that prayer time in first thing really are different from the days I don’t!

    • Connie Rossini November 14, 2015 at 6:27 pm

      Maxinita, the same thing happens to me. That’s why I pray in the evening now. It’s been getting harder to do that as my kids get older and want to stay up later. But at some point they just need to learn to give me some quiet time alone.