When I first wake up in the morning, I stretch, sometimes for longer than I have time for but it feels good. It’s also healthy; it gets your joints moving and your blood flowing. It’s a great metabolism boost. I may not pop out of bed immediately after, but it gets me moving better than if I hadn’t.
Sometimes, our souls need that same kind of boost to get going in our relationship with God. I don’t know about you, but I have waves where I’m good at talking to God on a regular basis and then I’m … less than good at it. I’ve become the absent daughter before, but I’ve always come back. It’s the coming back that can be a little difficult. My ‘morning stretch’ if you will: little prayers.
I might be driving along and see someone running in the rain, or walking alone, or stuck on the side of the road. I make myself say a little prayer for that person. Maybe I’m thinking about someone out of the blue; then I say a prayer for that person. By forcing myself to speak aloud (for me at least), I can begin to feel comfortable talking to God as though He were a friend sitting in the car with me. [Note: He is!] Now I don't get out of my car at work before praying O Holy Spirit to start my workday.
Okay, that’s not so hard, getting that conversation started, but how can we keep it going? When, who, why, where… What’s all this prayer for? The answer is simple: your soul. Sure there’s lots of benefits to others that you pray for - and that should be our motivator too! Our prayers for others can have a powerful impact! (1Tim 2:1) But did you know that praying for others boosts your soul too? (Heb 4:16)
Those little prayers are a small warm-up to talking to God. The formal prayers are a great routine. (Pray the rosary often!) But don’t forget that prayer isn’t just words, it’s soul exercise and the best workouts include a variety of techniques. Once you’re comfortable talking to God in those little ways, don’t stop there - challenge yourself! [St. Therese loved serving God in little ways, so don’t discount those!] Here are some ideas:
1. Meditation - Sometime just being quiet and contemplating our Heavenly Father is prayer. Our Beloved Mother asked us to contemplate the mysteries of the rosary. Perhaps just being quiet altogether works for you? Find a quiet place, dark too if that helps, and just breathe, wiping away all the world has thrown at you. Personally, this is difficult for me but I’ve had my moments when God has graced me with meditation. When it goes deep and all is peaceful, there’s no comparison. Allow yourself to think about His unending love for you. Think about the ways He made you and what He’s done for you, how He’s blessed you. Think about the world and the direction our society is headed. Meditation is necessarily happy, but it’s contemplative. It helps change our perspective and perhaps can help us to think more as God thinks. You could also meditate on the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit.
2. Fasting - This doesn’t have to be a Lent thing. Fasting doesn’t mean giving up a bad habit, but giving up something you enjoy as a suffering for the sake of your intention. It’s supernatural in that your intention (be it a loved one’s health or a debt) isn’t physically helped by your (for instance) giving up lunch or fasting from soda. Instead, your sacrifice (which must be coupled with prayer) will be given to the Father, in the name of the Son, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. He will see what you’re doing and know your heart. Your offering will not be in vain if your heart is focused on your intention. You don’t even have to tell another soul.
3. Novenas - Okay, I’ve actually never done a novena but recently have wanted to. The best explanation can be found here. The Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary waited for the Holy Spirit by praying in the upper room for nine days. This is where the tradition of the novena came from. There are some variations and there are different prayers that can be said. If you have a specific intention you want to focus on, this might be the form for you. It’s also great for those who need routine as a novena should be said at the same time each day.
4. Praying for Enemies (Mt 5:44) - It’s a struggle, true, but the benefits are amazing. I once had a real hard time with someone and praying about it didn’t seem to help until I prayed for that person. I didn’t pray spitefully either (‘make such-and-such happen to…’). I prayed for goodness for that person, and now we’re friends. It didn’t just lift that person up to God, but it humbled me which lifted my soul up to God. Praying for one’s enemies doesn’t mean you become bosom buddies, but being steadfast in this allows immense graces to flow into your own soul. Why would anyone turn down such a beautiful gift? Go on and give it a try, but remember, it takes commitment in the beginning. The devil will try to stop you immediately!
5. Read the Bible - To some, this is obvious, and to others, this doesn’t feel like praying at all. When I say ‘read,’ I don’t just mean literally ‘read.’ For example, open up the Psalms and find a verse. I’m a fan of Isaiah 40:31 myself, but my husband loves Proverbs 3:5. Read. Read again. Think. Contemplate the meaning. Read the notes below. Read the related verses or the context around the verse. Meditate a bit. Think some more. Read again. Ask yourself questions: how does this pertain to me, my life right now, others, the world? Don’t just read the Bible like it’s any other book. Let the verses rest in your mind and take root, grow, and flourish. This is why one shouldn’t just try to read the Bible in a small amount of time. Each verse deserves the attention of an entire book to itself. This is Word of God, Creator of the Universe!
6. Go to Mass or Eucharistic Adoration - This is a beautiful way to pray, and my personal favorite with Adoration! The pinnacle of Catholicism is the sacrament of the Eucharist, when we may fully received the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, the most Holy of Holies. The barrier between God and humans was broken when Jesus gave all of Himself for us. The veil was torn (Mt 27:51) and the way was made for us to receive salvation. What better way to pray than to celebrate His Great Love in devotion before His Body! Plus, you have a whole congregation to celebrate with which lifts your prayers up even higher! (Even better when you have Lift Ministries to set the tone for Adoration! If you have something like this near you, I recommend it!)
7. Pray with Others - This is more simple than you might think. Mealtime prayer, bedtime prayer, first-day-of-school prayer… Prayer is always good and when two or more are gathered (Mt 18:20), God is certainly there. If you don’t have this happening in your family, it can be awkward at first. Keep it simple to start, such as a mealtime prayer. It doesn’t have to sound traditional or formal. “Thank you, God, for this good food. Please bless it for us and please bless us. In Jesus’ name, amen.” We even say this at restaurants and when friends are over. If other people don’t do this, they remain silent and wait respectfully. No one has ever complained, but other restaurants-goers have smiled at us. That’s about it. It’s not awkward if you don’t make it awkward. Soon, you’ll feel more and more comfortable praying with your family and, eventually, others. It’s amazing how many people will appreciate your prayers for them, and might feel better if you pray with them.
There are many other ways to pray, and different kinds of prayer, including intercessory prayers to the saints and angels, etc. But this should be enough to get anyone started. If you want a specific prayer, not big on making up your own words, there are plenty to Google. There is a certain personal soul/prayer-life benefit of working out the words for yourself too. It opens one’s mind to conversation with the Lord and that is a priceless relationship. From little steps to big strides, anyone can boost a prayer life. Your soul’s not done stretching and growing until it resides with the Lord in Heaven, so let’s get praying!