Got prayer? We don’t always make time for it as we should, but as with all good habits, real change and real growth in the spiritual life comes with practice. Here are six simple practices that will increase your prayer time. Don’t attempt them all. Do the one or two that appeal to you, and then stick with it. Don’t overreach. Just try something.
Start the day differently. From dieting to exercise to getting things done before children awake, we all know that starting the morning right sets the tone for the day.
- Go “old school”: As you rise, just kneel down by your bed as ask God to enter your day, and to keep you mindful of his presence as you go through your day.
- Put a Bible next to your bed and read a few verses of the Psalms, or from the Sermon on the Mount before you rise.
- Pray Morning Prayer with your coffee using a phone app or a copy of the Magnificat.
- Tape a “morning offering” prayer to your bathroom mirror and pray it as you dress for the day.
Set an alert or an alarm for prayer breaks in your workday. So many of us spend Monday through Friday at a desk, and I’m known for getting absorbed in my work and tuning out other noises. I set timers in my work calendar that go off on my computer or on my phone. Here are some times that work for me.
- Noon—Pray the Angelus. (This takes about three minutes.)
- Lunchtime—I often take a lunchtime walk, so I pack my rosary. Sometimes I listen to an app on my phone and pray along, or sometimes I just pray quietly in time with my paces as I observe the changing seasons around me.
- 3:00 p.m.—Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy (a total of ten minutes). The three o’clock hour has long been considered the “hour of mercy”—the hour when Jesus died on the Cross.
- Dinnertime—Pause and pray a grace before your meal. The grace is a good moment to ask others what we can pray for, and to lift their needs to heaven spontaneously after we bless and thank God for the food. Better yet, turn off all screens before, during, and after the evening meal, for at least an hour. Put on some uplifting or spiritual music, or converse with family members, and make even a daily meal a place of calm, welcome, and peace—as if Jesus was dining with you for that hour!
Go to First Friday Mass. Go ahead, put it on your calendar. Honestly, I needed to schedule it in, otherwise all the Fridays seem the same to me and I forget. Attending Daily Mass is a great goal, but it might be too big a goal for some, and these days, not all local parishes have weekday Mass times that fit the worker’s week. Sometimes you can find a church closer to where you work; check out MassTimes.org to help. Maintaining fidelity to First Fridays is a great start.
Go to Adoration. Then unplug. I’ve got this on my calendar too. Find a chapel near you and, yes, schedule one hour for God, and one hour of free time for you after you go. Think of it as a kind of date between you and God. Learning to be silent, and learning to unplug are good disciplines. Try to do this weekly or monthly as your calendar and state in life allows.
This quote from Pope Benedict has haunted me, in a good way, when it comes to becoming more detached from my gadgets and my need to be plugged into silence.
Ours is not an age which fosters recollection… one has the impression that people are afraid of detaching themselves, even for a moment, from the mass media. For this reason, it is necessary nowadays… [to]be educated in the value of silence.
Rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in… life means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose…. Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us… (Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, par. 66.)
Put a short devotional prayer book on your meal table. I’ve got this one for the Year of Faith from Magnificat tucked inside the napkin holder on the family table. I read aloud a page—just a page—a night. And yes, I’ve missed a few nights when I’ve been out. Remember, keep your goals small and doable: Read just a page. Find a page-a-day resource to share with your loved ones. (Families: Lisa Hendey, one of our bloggers at Patheos has a new mini-book for Advent that would be perfect for this. Mark your calendar: Advent starts December 2.)
Plan to go on a retreat. A retreat is like a spa-treatment for the soul. Don’t deny yourself this gift any longer. This is the Year of Faith and you deserve it! Take a weekend away to be alone with the Lover of your soul.
Shop around for a Catholic retreat house. Take a small portion of your vacation time and budget and go. If you cannot afford it, ask someone to sponsor you—like your pastor. Or ask a relative to “gift” you for your birthday or for Christmas the next time they ask what they can give you. Then promise to pray for your benefactor.
There are many one-day retreats or days of renewal at local parishes or dioceses. Get online or read the diocesan paper for event listings. Or ask for recommendations by talking to the priests or people in your parish. You’ll find different styles of retreats that fit different kinds of needs and temperaments. Some retreats feature talks and discussions with other people on the retreat. Some are silent, where you just meet with a spiritual director now and again. Then you spend time at Mass, and in quiet reading, praying, or thinking.
Don’t be afraid. Go!
Prayer maintains our friendship with God. Like a sacred appointment, we tend to stay faithful to the things we actually commit to and add to our daily and monthly calendars. I saw a bumper sticker that held a surprising amount of wisdom on this subject: “Know Jesus, know peace. No Jesus, no peace.”
Book your appointment with God today!
For more resources for the Year of Faith, check out my previous column on the subject, or visit Patheos’ Year of Faith page.
This article originally appeared on Patheos.com and is used with permission.