I don’t know about you, but St. Paul’s exhortation to “Pray without ceasing,“ (1Thess 5:17) sometimes leaves me feeling like a slacker. So I thought today I’d share some practical tips on how to improve in this particular exercise of the spiritual life.
Before you open your eyes and put your feet on the floor, thank God for another day. Make the sign of the cross, blessing yourself, and offering your day to God. Pray a morning offering. This simple prayer places you in a posture of gratitude for the gift of life from the creator of life.
Start the day in prayer. I pray the rosary first thing in the morning, getting up a bit earlier to do so. I know this is not practical for many given the rush to get out the door in the morning or the demands of children. But find some form of prayer that you can do first thing in the morning. Maybe it’s taking 5 or 6 minutes to pray the psalm of the day. Maybe it’s the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or simply an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. Choose something that draws you into placing your day in God’s service.
Pray in the car. Many years ago, before I was home with my children, I used to pray the rosary on the way to work. Now, I know this isn’t a meditative form of prayer, but it would help to focus my attention toward God. It also made me a much more patient driver. Really….how can you start yelling at someone on the road when you’re praying? I still pray in the car, using whatever is handy – a finger rosary, at set of beads or my fingers. I can always tell how much driving I’ve done on a given day, by how many mysteries I’ve prayed and whether or not The Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Chaplet of the Holy Wounds have been prayed! If praying in the car doesn’t work for you, listen to Christian music, Christian radio, or spiritual talks.
Do small acts of sacrifice. Let someone proceed at an intersection. Smile at someone passing by. Pick up a mess made yet again. Do the job you least like to do. Cook someone’s favorite meal. Pick up a piece of trash. Use “good deed beads” to help you remember. They are a string of ten beads which are pulled from one side of a strand to the other each time a good deed is done. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux used these sacrifice beads as a tool to help her to grow in virtue. We can do the same.
Choose a scripture verse for the day and repeat it often throughout your day. It may be one you’ve memorized, one you’d like to memorize, or one you simply write down and keep in a prominent place to help you to plant the Word of God in your heart. Are you worrying? “Have no anxiety at all.” (Phil 4:6) Are you grateful? “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.” (Ps 136) Are you tired? “Come to me, all you who labor and find life burdensome and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28) You get the idea. Scripture is alive and active and works in us in a different way than any other word.
Choose a phrase for the day to pray repeatedly. “My Jesus pardon and mercy through the merits of your Holy Wounds.” “Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” “I adore you, O Christ, and I bless you because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.” “My Jesus mercy.” Anything that reminds you of the sacrifice of Jesus will focus your work and your love.
Light a candle. I often keep a blessed candle lit by the kitchen sink to remind to pray. The kitchen is a central room in the home, and having a candle burning as an offering to God prompts me to pray without ceasing.
Finally, if possible go to Mass. This act of prayer supersedes all others.
Whatever it is that might work for you, find it and make it a habit. Grow one habit at a time, and in time, you’ll be praying without ceasing!
Praise the Lord! Anne