Try This If You Struggle With Silence

Silence is scary.

I was reminded of this during a recent 5am shuttle to the local airport.  There I was with the driver and two men who I did not know. Let’s just say that there wasn’t a whole lot of small talk.

Only silence.

You have probably had that same kind of experience.  You’re with strangers and simply have nothing left to say.  That’s perfectly acceptable but we often feel like we should be filling each moment with at least some form of noise.

When it comes to prayer, silence can also be scary.  We aren’t sure what to do.  We want to hear the Lord’s voice but He rarely speaks audibly.  We wait and nothing seems to happen. 

All of this is normal.  Don’t stress.  I have this happen too.

So here’s a simple trick for when you have a silent moment of prayer- be still and let the thoughts come and go.  You’ll be bombarded with random thoughts, odd things that pop into your head.  You’re not sure why.  You had no idea that your head was so noisy.

Imagine that you’re on a beach and looking out on the water.  You see a boat come into your sight.  You could swim out to that boat and get a closer look.  After all, it looks so interesting and the people on the boat are having a great time.

Or, you simply let it go.  You could just go back to whatever you were doing and just let the boat sail by. 

Now apply this same trick to your prayer life.  You’ll close your eyes when you are praying, wanting to just “be” with God.  You’ll want to enter into the silence and then a random thought will pop into your noggin.

Like the boat metaphor, let it go.  Sure, you could linger with that thought and really get a better look at it.  It’s probably interesting and worth your time.  But now, for at least a few minutes, just let it go. 

You can do this.  I’ve been using this trick for years and it works nearly every time.  It can work for you too.

Four Things That Make Morning Prayer So Difficult

Think of the last time you jumped out of bed and started your day with a smile.  Now look back at what made that morning work so well- what made the difference?  

When it comes to morning prayer, it’s easier for things to go off the tracks than for your morning to go smoothly.

Why is that?

In my experience, our mornings are the result of our evenings the day before.  I had one of these “good mornings” recently and it felt so good.  I got up at the right time, my morning prayers went well and my workday seemed to just “flow”.  

Most mornings get sidetracked as the result of the following:

  1. We stay up too late the night before.  If you’re tired, you’re less likely to get up and get going in the morning.
  2. We don’t have a morning routine down.  It’s a good idea to do the same things every morning in the same cadence- it cuts down on decision fatigue which can influence your desire to pray.
  3. We haven’t laid out our tools in advance.  If you don’t know where you put your Bible and your journal, you are less likely to have a good experience of prayer.
  4. We lack a structure for our prayers.  This is why the ACTS formula makes so much sense. It just works.

How are your mornings going lately?  Which of the factors above can you improve on?

Start Your Prayers With…
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A good start goes a long way, whether it comes to your schedule or your prayer time.  

Think about it- you get up at a reasonable time in the morning, have a healthy breakfast and things just seem to fall into place as your day moves along.  It’s nearly a guarantee that the rest of the day will go well.  All because you got off to a good start.

Your morning prayer time is very, very similar.  We know that a good prayer time to start the day is valuable … the catch is this: how should you start?

There are about a thousand ways you could start your prayer time.  I imagine that many are quite effective.  Some could be elaborate (candles come to mind) while others could include music.  

In today’s post, I’ll simply share what I do and what works for me. If it’s useful, copy it immediately!
For me, what sets the tone and really centers me is to repeat the ancient words of the Church from the Liturgy of the Hours.  If you're not familiar, the Liturgy of the Hours is sometimes called the "prayer of the Church" and religious brothers, sisters and ordained ministers are required to pray the Hours at various times during the day.  The Hours form a framework around which the rest of the day gets scheduled.  

For me, it looks like this.  In my quiet spot in my home office, I close my eyes and say the following:

Oh God come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me…

These words instantly put me into a mood of prayerfulness.  They act as a trigger for my mind, my heart and my body.  Knowing that the Church also uses these words brings some context to my time of prayer.  I know that holy men and women have uttered these same words for thousands of years.

If a good start is so important, what phrase or mantra can you use to start out your prayer?

Is Lent Stressing You Out?

It’s Lent once again and you’ve probably made anywhere from 2-3 Lenten “resolutions”.  Catholics have a love-hate relationship with these kinds of Lenten activities.


On one hand, we feel excited about doing something new for and with God.  We secretly feel that maybe, just maybe, this Lent we will draw closer to the Lord.  Will this be the year when I have a breakthrough?  Will this year be any different from previous years?


On the other hand, it can feel like drudgery.  The fasting bothers us.  The alms giving only reminds us that we aren’t that generous in the first place.  By the time Easter arrives, we are more relieved than anything. 


The other weird part of Lent is that we are, most of us anyways, pretty awful at making resolutions.  Think of the last New Year’s Resolution that actually stuck past February 1- I thought so.


I’m no different.  Some years during Lent have gone really well, others not so much.


This year, I’ve decided to give something up that’s a bit out of the ordinary: podcasts.  Hear me out.  I drive a lot of carpools each week, getting my kids to and from school  and sports practices.  There’s a lot of time in the car and sometimes it feels like a part time job. 


To fill the space, I listen to podcasts.  A typical week might offer me 20-25 podcasts.  I listen to casts about politics, sports, productivity, faith and everything in between. 


So far, my Lenten sacrifice has been difficult but good.


A bigger question is whether your Lenten sacrifices are stressing you out.  Are they?  What’s behind that stress?


  1. A bit of friction might not be a bad thing. This might show you that you’ve been “soft” in the months (years?) leading up to Lent.  It might also be God telling you to sacrifice a bit more and to hang in there.  Sacrifice isn’t meant to be a cakewalk after all.
  2. You may have set yourself up for failure.  Is your Lenten sacrifice unrealistic?  Have you taken on more than 1-2?


My advice would be to sacrifice only one thing for Lent.  The key though is to make it a meaningful sacrifice.  For me, it’s podcasts. For you, it may be something else. 


Finally, it’s ok to make a “mid-game adjustment” during Lent.  Pray for the wisdom and discernment to know what God wants for you to do during Lent.  After all, a Lenten sacrifice is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. 

Should You Pray if You Feel Like a Phony?

Phony people are everywhere.  They live in your neighborhood.  They sit in the cubicle next to you.  They go to the same church as you.  They put on a mask and pretend that everything is better than it is.  Inside, they are just as insecure as the next person. 

Let’s not be too critical though- each of us is a phony at some point. 

You may not be 100% phony.  It may only show up once in a while.  Like when you’re in a meeting and want to sound smarter than the next guy- phony.  Or, when you’re having someone over for dinner and you want to impress- there it is again. 

Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk who stands as one of the most significant spiritual figures of our time, called BS on phoniness.  He discussed it using the phrase “the false self”.  To Merton, there is the person you are, ultimately found in God’s love and mercy for you.  This is the person you must discover and embrace. 

The phony you (and me!) is where we get into trouble. 

Merton put it this way, “Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. This is the man that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. … My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God's will and God's love — outside of reality and outside of life. And such a life cannot help but be an illusion. … The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God. … Therefore I cannot hope to find myself anywhere except in him. … Therefore there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him, I will find myself, and if I find my true self I will find him (New Seeds of Contemplation, 1961, pp. 34-36).

Whether you feel like a phony today or it’s a general awareness that you have, the question remains: how ought you to pray when you know that you’re being phony?   

Think about it- when we are phony, we least want to pray.  It’s our ugliest place to be.  Yet, in some ways, it’s the best condition through which we should pray.   

Phoniness can be a blessing.  

If we can place it before God, acknowledging how we feel- fake, plastic, incomplete, God can do wonderful things with it.  Beneath it is a raw desire to draw close to the Lord.  Beneath phoniness is something beautiful and that is who we are in Christ- beloved by God. 

This is the ultimate journey: going through phoniness to our truest self in God- beloved. 

So should you pray when you feel phony?  Absolutely.  Simply close your eyes, talk to God from your heart and pray for the grace to be real with God.  Pray for the grace to accept yourself, where you are today at this very moment.  Embrace that.  Offer that “you” up to the Lord and pray that God does something extraordinary through you and in your moment of vulnerability. 

Faith, Motivation, prayerMike StPierre
The Spiritual Benefits of Journaling

Do you have a habit of journaling?

I’ve been using a journal for about a decade.  Initially, it started with the old fashioned scientific notebooks that cost less than $1.  I would write one page per day and try my best to capture the day’s events.

For the last few years, I’ve shifted to a digital form of journaling.  Day One has been my go-to app of choice.  Day One is excellent for the following reasons:

1.  It’s multi-device.  I can write on my iPad, iPhone or on the Mac app.

2.  The UI is clean and modern.  Fonts are minimalistic and the overall feel is quite clean.

3.  Encrypted notebooks. Whether it’s via fingerprint or their Premium option to encrypt notebooks, Day One takes privacy seriously.

Journaling is valuable for anyone tending to their interior life.  It’s scientifically supported that, when you journal, the following occurs:

Your health improves.

Your stress decreases.

Related to prayer, journaling has a number of valuable benefits.

First, journaling gives you a sense of progress.  While prayer is not about “measuring”, it is important to build spiritual momentum.  An app like Day One shows you how many days in a month you’ve written in your journal and that feels good (or, not so good!) to watch your trends.

Second, journaling gives you an excuse to show gratitude to God.Through what you write, you can express the many things for which you are thankful. By bulleting your items, you will likely realize that you have more things to be thankful for than you had previously thought.

Third, when you relate journaling to spiritual direction, its value becomes even more evident.  Rather than wondering what God has been doing in your life in the past month, you simply look at your journal and summarize it for your director. 

How can you incorporate journaling into your daily routine? 


Mike StPierre