Posts in prayer
How to Create a Prayer Corner in Your Home
IMG_0562.PNG

I had the pleasure of attending an event for over 15,000 college students earlier this year. While the workshops were fantastic and the vibe electric, two things stood out for me and they both had to do with spaces for prayer.


One was a large room that was transformed into an Adoration Chapel. With chairs arranged as they would be for a church (i.e. straight ahead), an altar was placed in the front of the room with the Blessed Sacrament exposed. A large crucifix was hung and a nice backdrop established. To the right and left of the altar were separate prayer areas with specially lit artwork. The idea was that you could pray in a number of different ways in this space. See my photo below to get a better feel for it.

IMAGE.JPG

The second prayer space was mentioned briefly in one of the keynotes. The speaker mentioned that he had recently moved to a larger home that offered two walk-in closets. Not needing one of them, he converted it into a “chapel”, outfitted with pews that he found on Craigslist from a Baptist church. His point: if you’re serious about prayer, why not dedicate some space in your home for it?


When I got home, I realized that a tiny spot in my office might work well for a prayer “zone”. You can see the photo below, with Ace the Fierce Guard Dog opening up the Word!

IMAGE.JPG

 I’ve realized three things about this prayer space:

• It’s an excellent “teacher” for my children. When they see the area, they know that it’s not an ordinary space.

• It gives me, as a visual learner, a focal point. While most of my prayer is eyes-closed, I love the items in my space and they remind me to stay focused.

• It uses an otherwise unused space. I was just going to install a bookshelf for envelopes and extra paper supplies. What I now have is an attractive area to meet with the Lord.


Here’s a homework assignment: look around at your home. Where can you establish a prayer corner? What special items can you include in your corner? Some ideas might include:

• A Bible

• An icon

• A small plant

• A crucifix

• A relic (no stealing one from your local church!)

• A holy image


Ok ready to make your prayer corner? Go for it! I bet that you’ll find, as I have, that it amplifies your prayer life and provides a wonderful example to those with whom you live.

Liked This Article?

Join my email list and you’ll receive this free PDF worksheet on daily prayer.

Can You Pray in 10 Minutes a Day?
10 MOMNS.png

What can you do in just 10 minutes? 

I did a quick inventory from the past week and came up with a few answers:

Change the sheets on the bed

• Unload the dishwasher

• Steam clean the kitchen floor

• Call my parents on the phone

• Iron my clothes for the following day

You could probably create a similar list if you had to. It’s actually kind of amazing when you think about it. Much of the time, I tend to underestimate what can be done in just ten minutes

A question I’ve been thinking about lately relates to this. Can you build a meaningful prayer life on just ten minutes a day? 

The answer surprised me. 

Let’s compare prayer to physical fitness. If you asked the same question, (Can you get fit in just 10 minutes a day?) would you get the same answer? Yes and no. And, it depends.

Yes, you could get fit (or at least more fit) by dedicating 10 minutes every day for brisk physical activity. Do this over and over again and you’ll have built a steady habit of fitness. Will this propel you towards olympic competition? Most likely not.  Will you develop six-pack abs in just 10 minutes a day? Perhaps...

Now turn it over to prayer and the 10 minute question. Will you become a saint by giving just 10 minutes a day to the Lord? Probably not. It will likely take you more time and a lifetime of devotion and service. But can (here’s the six-pack abs element) you build a strong foundation of prayer in just 10 minutes a day?

I think you can.

Prayer is not so much about minutes but about routine and momentum and honest dialogue with God. If 10 minutes can help you with that routine and stronger relationship with God, it might be just the thing to focus on in the coming month.

You can do a lot in just 10 minutes a day. God can do even more than we imagine in that same block of time, given over to him faithfully each day.

To be clear, this is not about speed or about rushing through prayer. While Jesus did recommend brevity (Matthew 6:7), it’s of course good if you can spend more than ten minutes in prayer. We’re talking about the basics and about foundational habits. Saint John Paul II said, “Become a saint, and do so quickly,” but he didn’t mean that we ought to hurry when we pray. Rather, he meant for us to sense the great love God has for us and respond accordingly.

I’m mindful too of this quote from St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, “He who prays most receives most.” Give God your 10 minutes and let Him do the rest. Over time, these moments will expand and then spill over into the other minutes in your day.


Liked This Article?

Join my email list and you’ll receive this free PDF worksheet on daily prayer.



A Resolution Worth Keeping
Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of EVANG.png

I can’t imagine a year starting without a sense of hope. Hope for better fitness, hope for a simpler lifestyle, hope for new breakthroughs at work.


Psychology Today reports that many people start off the year with great optimism but, sadly, find it fading away just a few weeks later.


It’s not as if the resolutions themselves are bad. Who wouldn’t want to have 6-pack abs or more financial margin?


Rather, it’s that we often lack the structure needed to truly activate a new habit. In the case of prayer, it’s really about three things:

Visualization: the most important question I ask people when we talk about prayer is this, “If you could take 5 minutes to pray, what would that look like?” There is great power in imagining yourself alone, in a corner with a Bible in your lap. Or, alone, in a Church with your eyes closed and no one around. You get the picture. The key is to have a picture for yourself. This is like putting your handprint into cement- it leaves a mark.

Rituals: more than just routines, rituals are repeated actions with God in mind. A morning prayer ritual is different from a morning routine like brushing your teeth. A morning prayer ritual might include a phrase, a quote, a reading, a journal, etc. The ritual forms a mindset of “something bigger is happening here”. The ritual, as Fr. Ronald Rolheiser says, “carries you” when you don’t feel like praying.

Momentum: with a prayer time visualized and then rituals being put into place, God will build spiritual momentum in you. This momentum is vital for God’s insights to show up, God’s messages to be heard and God’s nudgings to be felt. It’s often after the fact that you see that God had been at work. Momentum makes this possible.


Can you imagine a daily prayer time in your new year? For me, the routines are in place and my foundation is steady. Now, it’s time for me to ask God what He wants to do next.


Maybe it’s time for you to do the same.

 

Liked This Article?

Join my email list and you’ll receive this free PDF worksheet on daily prayer.

How to Create a More Resilient Prayer Life
Copy of EVANG.png

Romans 12:12 says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

This quote is more relevant than most of us realize. As we grow in our relationship with God, it is only natural that we experience of daily prayer that has fits and starts. Being faithful in our prayer lives is critical.

It can often feel like “one step forward and two steps back”. One day, we enjoy our daily quiet time and the next feels like we’re drowning. As Fr. Ronald Rolheiser says, “Sometimes we walk on water and other times, we sink like a stone.” Can you relate?

In my book, The Five Habits of Prayerful People (coming in 2019), I talk a lot about the importance of staying with prayer. You’ve got to keep at it and try your best to avoid discouragement. Others call this resilience and in academic circles, it’s known as grit.

Gritty prayer warriors have three qualities:

  • They take the long view. They realize that, in any given week, they will have good moments of prayer and ones that feel rather ordinary.

  • They do not dwell in their sin. They recognize when they’ve messed up, name it, own it and ask for forgiveness. Then, they remember that God loves them and has already died for their sins. This brings an overwhelming sense of newness and of starting over. The emphasis is on God and not our sins.

  • They value progress over perfection. A steady person of prayer understands the human condition and isn’t surprised when they are imperfect. 

Grittiness, not something you and I think of often but very much a quality of a mature spiritual person. St. Bonaventure said, “When we pray, the voice of the heart must be heard more than that proceeding from the mouth.”

As I continue to write about prayer, it strikes me that there are quite a few moments in our spiritual lives that invite us into deeper resilience.

These might include:

  1. Rather than beating yourself up over missing daily Mass, taking five minutes to schedule the next time you can get to Mass. This will integrate your busy schedule with your desire for communal worship.

  2. Rather than skipping your daily quiet time altogether, choose instead to have five quiet minutes of prayer. Like physical exercise, a little goes a long way.

  3. Instead of avoiding the Sacrament of Reconciliation for months at a time, practice a daily examination of conscience at the end of the day. By building this muscle of personal reflection, you’ll be much more in tune with what’s going well (and what isn’t) in your daily life. Then, when you can get to Confession, you’ll be more prepared and feel more in sync with God.

Resilience is a choice. God puts dozens of moments into every day for us to opt for a more gritty spiritual life. When will you spot your next moment to be resilient?

This Advice is For Me Too- Let Me Explain

I was on a recent trip to give a talk at a large college in the south. On the trip down, I was prepared to deliver my speech but on the inside, I wasn’t feeling particularly spiritual. In the airport, I was playing the competition game, measuring myself by everyone else, as if they all had life figured out and I was just a rookie. It didn’t feel good. Ever had one of those moments?

The following day, heading home, I stopped at my gate at the airport. To my right, I glanced out the window and saw something that arrested my morning. The sunrise, simply doing its thing, was stunning.

fullsizeoutput_59c9.jpeg

I needed that moment and I’m glad that God gave me the “pause” to appreciate it. God does this all of the time, if we will just have the eyes to see.

A spiritual life that is resilient savors these moments and discovers them over and over again. Enjoy them. Look for them. Count on them. They will spill over into your prayer life and make a tremendous difference. 


Liked This Article?

Join my email list and you’ll receive this free PDF worksheet on daily prayer.


Wisdom from St. Paul on Prayer
IMG_0509.PNG

The conversation goes like this:


  • If you could have a daily time of prayer, what would that look like?
  • I would get up before the kids, have a glass of water, find a comfortable space and read something inspiring. Then, I would let it sink in and then talk to God.


That doesn’t sound too difficult does it?


Nonetheless, the space between answering the question and then doing it is vast for many people. It’s as if we instinctively know what we want our daily prayer time to look like but can’t seem to put it into practice.


Can you relate?


Could it be that we are experiencing a St. Paul moment? Remember Romans 7:15-20 which says,


I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”


St. Paul knew the human experience. Was he talking about prayer? Service? Evangelization? Morality? We may never know.


I do think that one could apply his reflection to prayer.  My own life of prayer is somewhat similar- some days, I want to pray but just seem to forget. Other days, I have more motivation. It’s as if I’m going one step forward and another two steps backwards.


Most people I talk with share this experience. Their lives are too hectic and filled with commitments to let prayer seep in.


Two things were as true for St. Paul as they are for you and me:


  1. We cannot underestimate the tension that comes with the human existence.
  2. We cannot build a life of prayer without momentum.


Let me explain a bit further. First, we know that a prayerful life is hard. Most of us don’t have the one we desire because we let the urgent get in the way of the important. Errands, schedules and bills quickly crowd out a heartfelt desire to pray. Sometimes I want to throw up my hands and say to God, “why can’t this be easier?”


It can be “easier” but only with spiritual momentum. By spiritual momentum I mean a habit of prayer. Day in and day out, a prayerful person builds the muscle of prayer. This is not a physical muscle but a disposition and a set of actions that eventually becomes like muscle memory. Like any habit, daily prayer can become rooted in your subconscious.


With practice, it’s just what you do.


This momentum is built on a daily habit of spending time alone with God. This is the singular habit that will change a person’s life. It doesn’t exclude other habits that are just as central to the Christian life (i.e. serving the poor, living a sacramental life, practicing virtuous habits).


Prayer, unique in its own way, is the one habit that can be practiced 365 days a year. No church needed. No other people needed. Just you and God, day in and day out.


If the tension of being prayerful was modeled by St. Paul, we should pay attention to his example. His struggle ended up being good enough to propel him as the greatest evangelizer in Christian history.

 

Liked This Article?

Join my email list and you’ll receive this free PDF worksheet on daily prayer.

The Jesus Prayer: What is it and How do you Pray It?

A few years ago, a friend of mine recommended that I pray “the Jesus prayer”. I had shared my struggle with a lot of negative self talk and she thought that the Jesus Prayer would be a helpful antidote.

To my surprise, it worked.

Before I go any further though, let me share some details about the Jesus Prayer. It’s quite powerful and could be a powerful asset in your prayer toolbox.

What is it?

It’s very simple and you can pray it anywhere, anytime. Some people use prayer beads but they are not mandatory. The prayer is this:

"Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

It’s been called “essential” to spiritual growth by a number of the Church Fathers. The Jesus Prayer is considered a means of praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Since one names Christ as Lord at the very start of the prayer, it is thought to be quite Biblical.

A Biblical Prayer

One can reference Acts 4:12, “. . . for there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved”, Luke 1:31, or Matthew 16:16-18 to name a few. The New Testament is rich with examples of people who call out to Jesus in need of healing or simply seeking answers to life’s difficult problems.

By praying the Jesus Prayer, we return to this tradition in a direct way. It humbles us and reminds us of our complete need of Him. As a prayer it is so beloved by Eastern Christians that it is said to be the most recited prayer after the Our Father and the Hail Mary.

Is it Just Another Mantra?

While some prayers are a means of reducing our stress, the Jesus Prayer is much more. It does not seek to empty the mind but to fill it with the merciful presence of Jesus.

Helpful Articles

If you’re not convinced yet that the Jesus Prayer is effective, here are some wonderful resources that I can recommend:

Helpful Videos

The Impact of the Prayer

In my life, the Jesus Prayer has been a great gift. I use it regularly as a way to focus my mind and heart. I will pray it to start the day, to calm me down in the middle of the day and even at random times while running errands. I find that it’s “pure”- I didn’t come up with it and each word is charged with a heart turned towards God. I can put myself second and God first when I pray the prayer.

Do you have to pray it out loud? Not necessarily. I typically do not. Try it out and see if it can be another component of your prayer life. If you’re like me, you might also become an advocate of the Jesus Prayer.


Liked This Article?

Join my email list and you’ll receive this free PDF worksheet on daily prayer.