"Until you are convinced that prayer is the best use of your time, you will not find time for prayer.” -Father Hilary Ottensmeyer, OSB
- The first secret is there are no secrets! Rather, it takes a lot of perseverance humility, honesty, and grace to grow in prayer. The real secret is to do the other things below, which most Catholics who are trying to grow in prayer already know about - we just have to do them!
- Don't over-think prayer. It need not be complicated or burdensome. It is a relationship that God invites you ever deeper into. If we engage our intellect all the time, then we aren't focusing on the best part of prayer, which resides in the heart. Not the head.
- Be still and quiet yourself. The place you pray, your posture, and the time set aside are important. But, the real key is once you do these things you must rest and be still inside. Try to focus and allow yourself to tune into God's voice.
- Don't think of prayer as a chore. Many of us want to grow in prayer and commit ourselves to daily prayer. But, then life gets you going and you try to go "do" your prayer and get it over with to get to other stuff. But, the "other stuff" isn't nearly as important. So, our priorities and outlook on prayer might need to be adjusted periodically.
- Pray even when you don't want to. The real test of love is found when we overcome our feelings and thoughts that push us to stop praying. But, God is even more pleased when we choose to pray when we don't feel like it than when it is easy. Choosing to pray when it is difficult is a sure sign that you love God!
- Yes, the Sacraments matter! There is no better way to pray than to go to Mass. Frequent Confession is also a wonderful way to deepen your prayer life. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a great time/place to pray before our Lord. Don't discount the graces you receive from the Sacraments.
- You are not alone in prayer - The Holy Spirit is our help! If you know you ought to grow in prayer but lack the desire, then pray for the desire to grow. All of us should ask God to guide us through the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:26-27 – “The Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”
- Establish Good Habits - You should be able to rely on your habits to help you, and not hurt you, in your prayer. A good habit takes 66 days (at least) to establish. So, if you can commit to a routine of prayer for 2 months, you should start to lay the groundwork for healthy prayer habits.
- Accountability Counts - You need someone who is more objective than you are to look at your prayer life and see how you are doing and how the Holy Spirit is working. A spiritual director is invaluable in helping. But, if you don't think you are ready, even have a holy friend to talk to can be good.
- Try Different Types of Prayer - We all have different tastes in prayer, just like most other things in life. So, try out different types of prayer and see which ones work for you. One caveat - don't give up too soon on a type of prayer. It might take a good long time to discover whether it is good for you or not.
- Fast Regularly - There is great power in fasting. We see it in Scripture when Jesus fasts and calls his disciples to do the same. When we have better control over the desires of our bodies, we can pray better.
- Overcome Distractions - The simple way to overcome a distraction is to not give into it. Once you realize you are distracted turn your heart and mind back to your prayer, not to examining the distraction. This simple act is the easiest way to defeat distractions.
- Work on a Proper Understanding of God and Self - I can not emphasize this one enough. Many of us struggle to understand how a perfect God could love us and want a relationship with us. But, this is due, mainly, to our bad perceptions of our own dignity and the way God loves us unconditionally.
- Find and Use Good Resources - When you don't know what to do or how to do it, the resources can help. Resources include people, friends, books, websites, sacramentals (e.g. rosaries), Sacred Scripture, etc.
- Prioritize Prayer. Schedule it. Bump something else. Get up early. Do whatever you have to do, but don't let a day go by without spending time with the most important person in your life. Don't wait to start!!!
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