It’s Advent, and the cold and still winter days tend to be a time of reflection for me. About a year ago I wrote about the fact that for the first time in my life I was actively trying to pray each day, i.e. setting anywhere from 2-30 minutes aside each day and some days, it doesn’t happen. Now, I’ve prayed throughout my life, of course; however, this past year is the most regularly that I’ve prayed. It’s also the first time I think I’ve truly tried to develop a relationship with Jesus, not just “grow spiritually.” I’ve hungered for personal, tangible and real relationship with my Savior. That blog was about what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about the forms of prayer. I tend to be very knowledge oriented, so research tends to be my go to way to grow closer to God; however, over the last year I’ve discovered so much more in just blindly “praying,” in talking with my pastor, in being in fellowship with other women at our parish and in surrendering and submitting a little more each day to the will of God. I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned over the year in the hope that it might help someone else on their own journey.
- Don’t judge your prayer time – a call to avoid scrupulosity. I asked my pastor if what I was doing (at the time reading spiritual writing I found interesting) was praying. Again, being knowledge oriented and being a perfectionist means I am often scrupulous about what I do, and I often feel the need to “perform” to earn my place with God and in Heaven. My pastor quoted a saint saying “Don’t judge your prayer,” if you’re actively trying to seek God then it will bear fruit. Start with what seems to be working for you and try to be as consistent as you can in doing whatever that is. If you commit to something, keep your commitment but don’t worry if its the perfect fit or perfect prayer, just be faithful to it and over time you will slowly see change.
- If you feel a call to prayer, whenever it may be, stop and pray. Period. Again, great words from my pastor. If you feel a sense or an urge to pray, then just do it even it means stopping your to do list or your hurried day to just sit for a moment. These are the promptings of the Holy Spirit and when we follow His lead, it will bear fruit.
- Replace “prayer” with “presence.” Instead of defining a time of prayer as such, focus on placing yourself in the presence of Jesus. I will freely admit, that I didn’t really know what that mean, I just tried it over and over again. Just like I want to spend time with friends and my spouse, so to I should want to spend time with my Lord. I usually try and sit in silence for a few moments a day – i.e. about 1 or 2 minutes – and just try and listen to promptings or imagine Jesus giving me a hug. Many times I see or feel nothing, but sometimes I do feel an urge or prompting – not a voice talking – just maybe a reminder of something else from my day or an urge to do or stop doing something. I don’t want this to sound dramatic at all, but I have found when I am actively trying to be silent each day that I notice the promptings and hand of God working in my life in many and various ways.
- Placing God at the center of each day. Since having our third child, it’s been much more difficult to dedicate specific prayer time; however, what I’m finding in the last few weeks though, is that I have been more actively speaking to him throughout the day or just recalling His name or asking for a saint’s intercession (as simple as “St Therese, pray for me”) and it has started to transform me, my day and my attitudes. I’m trying to revolve around Jesus and not trying to have him revolve around me. This is new territory for me, I cannot say I’ve ever felt that I’ve continually tried to recall Jesus throughout the entire day and truly make him the center of the day and the only explanation can be that he is allowing that grace right now.
- Spiritual warfare. In the last few weeks, I’ve read and listened to several sources talk about the battle that is constantly being waged each day for our souls. Here’s links to those sources: Abiding Together Podcast, Resisting the Devil, Dave VanVickle’s ministry. That is to say that we battle each day against the Enemy’s lies – the battle of God over the Enemy is over and it has been won – however, we have to battle each day to fight temptation and sin and I’ve learned two things at this point in time. First, everything that Church offers us is for a reason, all the prayers and sacraments and sacramentals are true and good and tools to bring us closer to God and to use as weapons to protect our hearts. They aren’t silly words or actions, they are Holy tools to guide, aid and protect us. Second, obsessive thoughts is one of the most common ways that the Enemy starts to bring us down and tell us lies. I know this to be true in my case. It’s my job to stop listening to these lies and to place myself in the presence of Jesus immediately and ask what He wants me to do. I cannot help but be extremely grateful for this simple, yet new to me, knowledge.
Above all, let me not forget that prayer is about developing a relationship with God. It’s not done just for the sake of doing it. It’s done to allow me to be transformed into who God wants me to be and lead me to what God wants me to do – only this makes life worthwhile.
I am such a beginner in my journey toward Heaven and still have so much to learn, but I hope sharing my small progress and simply prayer practices over the last year might help others who are in a similar situation to know that they are not alone in the pursuit of building a personal relationship with our God.
My church is offering a class on How to Pray in January. If this is of interest to you, check out our Church’s website for more information or reach out to me and I’ll connect you. There will be discussion on different forms of prayer, sharing of personal prayer practices and fellowship on our journey toward Jesus.