One reason many of us don't pray more often or better is because we have questions and uncertainties about prayer. We worry that we’re doing it wrong or that it’s not really working. One of the best ways to combat the neutralizing effect this doubt can have on your prayer life is to remember that prayer is a gift.
Prayer Comes From God
“[Prayer] is not what we do but what God does in us, how God loves us, addresses us, looks at us, enlightens us, forgives us, heals us, purifies us and eventually transforms us.”
Dominican Nuns Ireland Family Day Address (www.dominicannuns.ie)
God is constantly seeking us. Like the father who daily scanned the horizon for his prodigal son, God waits patiently for us. Prayer is the gift, given to us by God, to respond to His call and to seek him in return.
Every moment of prayer begins, not with us, but with God’s call to us - the desire for union with him that he has placed deep within our hearts. Our prayer is a response to that call. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,
“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort” (2725).
Prayer is Relationship
It is time spent with someone you love. To pray is to speak and then to listen; to communicate on a more personal and profound level and to grow in understanding, respect and appreciation of the other.
Don’t Worry About Doing It “Right”
If you have a desire to grow in your relationship with God, you are doing it right. Just as your life and experiences of God are unique to you, so too will
your prayer be unique to you.
Make an Appointment
Find a regular time and a regular place to do your prayer. Schedule it into your daily routine at a time that works for you. Scheduling prayer into your weekly calendar can help you avoid the temptation to over schedule yourself to the point that you don’t have time for prayer.
Persevere Through Distractions
Give your distractions over to God. Ask your Guardian Angel to take care of them or write them down. Sometimes what feels like a distraction is God's way of directing your prayer to a certain relationship or situation. Consider how He may be speaking in the distractions.
Dealing with Boredom
Sometimes, after many attempts, people still don’t “feel” God. Sometimes this is a result of God stretching us. Often, though, we can take certain steps to improve our prayer experiences:
- Pray at a time of day when you are most alert.
- Pray when you have at least 20 minutes, so you don’t feel rushed or hurried.
- Don’t pray when you are hungry, or just after eating a large meal.
- Turn off or completely silence all electronic distractions. Even a blinking notification light or vibration may be a distraction.
Make your prayer goals realistic. If you haven’t prayed in a while, start by adding in an extra 15 minutes of prayer each week rather than trying to schedule
an hour a day. Set yourself up for success by making your goals realistic and achievable.
Evaluate your prayer routine every month or so and make incremental adjustments as needed.
Prayer is A Journey
Just like any relationship, your relationship with Jesus has ebbs and flows that move with the seasons of your life. Your prayer life does not need to be perfect today. Simply consider where your relationship with Jesus is today and work on taking one step closer.
Then, in an hour, a week, a year...
after the baby is born,
or the toddler potty trained,
or the laundry is done,
or the new job has been found,
or the math class has been passed...
take another step!