There’s a lot of talk about spiritual “practices” and “disciplines,” and a lot of people are left wondering whether or not what they do qualifies. This is the first in a series of three Everyday Grace columns that will help you find the spiritual practices that work best for you.
Prayer. It’s been made to sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. When asked how to pray, Jesus gave his disciples the simplest, most direct, and best prayer of all, the Our Father; and you probably have your own well-established prayer practices as well. Here are three suggestions for enhancing your prayer life:
- Balance prayers that are prayed in the solitude of your heart with those prayed in community. The Angelus can draw your attention back to God in the midst of a busy day, and the prayers of the Mass reaffirm your part in the community of faith.
- Pray through action by taking part in a work of mercy. Practicing forgiveness, visiting someone who’s sick, helping out at a thrift shop, giving comfort to someone in pain are all prayer in action as long as you perform them with an open and loving heart.
- Get an advisor whose approach to prayer is something that resonates with you. Read widely—Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, G.K. Chesterton, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton… read enough of what these writers have to say about prayer to see if it is attractive to you, and then read more. There is no need to reinvent the wheel: these people have been though what you’re going through and have a lot to teach.
“We can be sure that there is no such thing as a superfluous or useless prayer. No prayer is lost. When faced with evil we often have the sensation that we can do nothing, but our prayers are in fact the first and most effective response we can give, they strengthen our daily commitment to goodness. The power of God makes our weakness strong.” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, speaking on September 12, 2012 at his Wednesday General Audience)