SOME TIPS FOR A BETTER PRAYER LIFE.....for those of us always putting God in the "margins of our lives" like I sometimes do when I'm just "too busy" or "too tired"
Since Advent starts on Sunday, this is the perfect time to improve our prayer life. I know I want to be more focused on God during this Advent season, so that I may be better prepared for the joy of his birth. Here are some personal tips and tricks that have helped me to improve my prayers and increase my daily prayer time. These may or may not be useful to you, since everybody is on a different level and in a different spot on their path to holiness, but I tend to make excuses and leave prayer 'til the very last minute of the day...until my eyes are closing and my body is ready to collapse onto my bed...and then it either does NOT get done ("I'll pray more tomorrow I promise!") or I fall asleep after the first 5 words.
1. MORNING PRAYEROn my morning commute (which is about 30-40 minutes), I turn off my car radio and spend that half hour in silence and prayer. I usually also eat breakfast and sip coffee/tea in my car to save some time, but the food is always preceded by prayer. I usually dedicate about 10-15 minutes to prayer, then I bless my food, then I eat my food, and then I just relax for the rest of my morning commute. I arrive at school or work refreshed, inspired, and ready to tackle the day!
2. KEEPING A SMALL JOURNAL/PLANNER WITH YOUWhen I am in school Monday through Friday, I carry around a little planner, which I use as a journal. It is not a journal for extensive reflection, but I pull it out of my backpack whenever I feel the need to jot down a few words for God...whether they are due to joy, gratitude, or a troubled heart. This helps me get all my feelings/worries/joys OUT and offer them up to the Lord, which helps me proceed through the day in peace.
3. COMMITMENT TO PRAY A SPECIAL PRAYER OR SPEND MORE TIME IN PRAYER THAN USUAL, AT LEAST ONCE A WEEKSince I know it is impossible for me to pray the rosary every day (I am jealous of the people that do), I set up a specific day of the week on which I know I have to pray the rosary--no excuses allowed. So Wednesday is my special Rosary day. It's only once a week and it's always right in the middle of the week--so there is no excuse to forget or no excuse to be "too tired" to do it. In addition, I also pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy on Fridays, since that is the day of Jesus' death and that is the day that St. Faustina told us to pray it - ideally at 3pm - "the hour of mercy"
4. COMMITMENT TO GO TO CHURCH AT LEAST ONE EXTRA TIME DURING THE WEEK, APART FROM SUNDAY.If you are the type of person that only sees your church for one hour on Sundays, make a commitment, for just ONE extra day, to go to your church...whether it is an extra morning mass each week, or a holy hour. I tried the morning mass routine last year, but the times the morning mass if offered in my church conflicts with my school schedule. So what I have been doing for about 6 months is going to my church's HOLY HOUR, which is every Thursday at 7pm. The hour consists of both communal prayer and adoration of the Exposed Holy Eucharist, as well as periods of silent prayer and adoration. I cannot tell you how precious Holy Hour has become to me. No matter what is going on in my life and how many exams I have to study for, I simply LEAVE EVERYTHING BEHIND, take my cars keys and drive to church. Even though I'm feeling anxious and stressed because I feel like I have NO time for this, I just do it, period! And it has been such a beautiful experience to spend an hour of silence in front of the living God...an hour of not asking for things and worrying about things, but just ADORING HIM for His Indescribable Goodness and Endless Mercy. Sometimes, I just don't want to leave. I want to stay in the silence of the church for the whole night...I don't want to go home and face all my school work and stress all over. I cannot even begin to describe the value of that ONE hour spent in HIS presence every week. It is priceless.
5. NOT LEAVING EVENING PRAYER FOR LASTI used to have this idea that evening/night prayer should be the last thing we do before we go to bed. Well, that ran me into trouble. By the time I got around to my evening prayers, I was already halfway asleep. Then I made up my mind that I cannot constantly put God at the bottom of my to-do list and make school work and other things take priority over Him, because it always turns out that I either don't get to the bottom of my to-do list at all, or when I do, I'm so tired that I can't focus and have no idea what I'm saying anymore. So, I decided that what I need to do is set an approximate time that I will pray each evening. Right now, my commitment is to get on my knees for AT LEAST 10 minutes, ideally before 10pm. And the hardest part of it all is the "getting on your knees to pray" part. Once I'm on my knees, it is actually a pleasure and a comfort to be spending this time in God's presence...and I end up staying waaaay past the 10 minutes...But you have got to start somewhere. So set a minimum requirement that's not overwhelming, because like I already said and like everybody knows: "the hardest part is showing up." So decide to show up! Even if it's for 5-10 minutes.
6. NOT PUTTING GOD IN THE MARGINS OF YOUR LIFE.If you're like me...you should decide that God should not just be an "item on your to-do list" but the over-arching purpose of everything you do throughout the day. Thus, even when I am in the midst of studying, working, or eating a really quick meal, I take my time to just say a few words to God. When I see something beautiful in nature, my first thoughts are usually "Wow GOD, You created this. Thank you for letting me see it." Once you train your mind to see God in everything and in everyday, it becomes a habit to THANK HIM for every single thing...especially for the "little things" that people often take for granted. Living every day in the AWE of HIS PRESENCE makes every day seem like such a beautiful gift - and makes all troubles/worries/fears drown in the ocean of His Mercy.
7. And my favorite phrasewhich I repeat almost non-stop and which puts EVERYTHING back into perspective for me.
" It's all in His Hands "
I find myself saying this so darn often, because I always forget that GOD is GOD and He is in control of my life...I don't have to worry or fear. He'll take care of E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.
I hope this helps..
Love, Agnes :-)