“Prayer is nothing else than an intimate friendship, a frequent heart-to-heart conversation with Him, Who we know loves us.” ~ St. Teresa of Avila
Are you simply going through the motions when you pray or are you on fire for your faith?
Sometimes, as Catholics, we get into the rut of performing our spiritual practices out of habit without really thinking about what we’re doing. We get into a certain routine that has become dull and we don’t know how to put the life back into it. Or we may fear that if we discontinue or alter our routine, God will punish us by distancing himself from us or by allowing bad things to happen in our lives. How can we get back on track and pump up our prayer life?
We need to be able to pray with conviction. Our primary reason for prayer should be because we love God, who is our Creator and our Savior. As such, He deserves our praise and we, in turn, desperately need his grace. When we pray with conviction, we pay attention to the meaning of the words we are saying, we search the Scriptures for wisdom and direction, we lift our hearts up to God in thanksgiving and adoration, and we try to adapt our lives according to the discoveries we make through prayer – to unite our will with that of God’s will.
St. Teresa of Avila tells us: “The most potent and acceptable prayer is the prayer that leaves the best effects. I don’t mean it must immediately fill the soul with desire . . . The best effects [are] those that are followed up by actions—–when the soul not only desires the honor of God, but really strives for it. “
Now that we know what the ideal is, how do we get there?
1. Realize that we all experience occasional difficult and dry periods in our prayer life. Blessed Mother Teresa experienced periods of dryness in her prayer life, as did many other saints.
2. Make sure that there are no obstacles that are hampering your prayer life. Unforgiveness or other sins that are hidden in the unconscious can block spiritual growth. Do a thorough examination of conscience and go to Confession.
3. Emulate the saints in following what worked for them in their prayer lives. Read about their lives and how they dealt with difficulties and dryness in prayer.
4. See a spiritual director for guidance. He can help determine if there is anything blocking your spiritual growth that you may not be aware of and help you discern God’s will in your life, and help you grow in zeal for your faith.
5. Take care of yourself physically. Lack of sleep and proper nutrition can have an adverse effect on your spiritual life. If you are in poor physical shape, it’s difficult to focus on prayer and anything else for that matter.
6. Deal with emotional/psychological problems. If you are grieving or depressed, it may be difficult to pray; however, keep conversing with God and let Him know how you are feeling. Be honest with God. If you are angry, share that with Him. If you have serious problems, you may need to seek counseling. It is also important to receive support from family and friends.
7. Don’t be afraid to alter your devotions – to try something new or different. For example, pray a new novena – such as Our Lady, Untier of Knots—or pray to a new saint you haven’t asked to intercede for you in the past.
8. Go to daily Mass and receive Holy Communion as often as possible. There is no greater prayer than the Mass.
9. Read and study Scriptures as part of your prayer routine. Get a good daily devotional like the Magnificat or The Word Among Us.
10. Participate in Eucharistic Adoration as often as possible. If you are unable to do this, visit the Blessed Sacrament and pour out your heart to Jesus there. Listen to the ways that He directs and guides you.
11. Become part of a vibrant prayer community. If there is no group like this in your area, then start one. If that is not something you feel comfortable doing, consider joining or starting an online prayer group.
12. Read uplifting books about prayer that will stir you and guide you in growing your relationship with God.
13. Go on a retreat at least annually to stir up the Holy Spirit in your soul. If that is not possible, participate in a parish mission.
14. Go on a self-guided retreat in the privacy of your home. There are some books listed below that will help you do this.
15. Practice Lectio Divina, a method of praying with Scripture that will draw you closer to the Heart of Jesus.
Recommended Reading List (Not all-inclusive)
Books on Prayer
A Catholic Woman’s Book of Prayers, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Our Sunday Visitor, 2010
Catholic Mom’s Cafe: 5-Minute Retreats for Every Day of the Year, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Our Sunday Visitor, 2013
Catholic Update: Guide to Prayer, Mary Carol Kendzia, Franciscan Media, 2013
Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat- Inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Marian Press, 2010
Divine Intimacy, Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, OCD, Baronius Press, 2014
Prayer Works: Getting a Grip on Catholic Spirituality, Matthew Leonard, Our Sunday Visitor, 2014
Praying In The Presence Of Our Lord: Prayers For Eucharistic Adoration, Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, Our Sunday Visitor, 1999
The Prayers and Personal Devotions of Mother Angelica, Raymond Arroyo, Image, 2010
Thirsting for Prayer, Jacques Philippe, Scepter Publishers, 2014
Books on the Saints and Prayer
Consoling Thoughts on Trials of an Interior Life, St. Francis de Sales, TAN Books, 2013
Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila, Dover Publications, 2007
St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer, St. Augustine, Sophia Institute Press, 2011
Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition. 1996
The Three Ages of the Interior Life: Prelude of Eternal Life: Volume I & II, Reverend Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P., Catholic Way Publishing, 2013
Copyright 2014, Jean Heimann