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.