How to Reboot Your Prayer Life
The last week of August around our house usually plays out the same every year. While we’re still desperately clinging to those final days of summer, spending every possible evening at the pool and eating every possible meal on the deck, we’re also obligatorily prepping for the inevitable first day back at school. We’re purchasing all the school supplies, choosing the back-to-school outfits, and registering for the fall activities. We are – reluctantly – getting ready for summer to end.
And while it will be hard to say good-bye to the beach days and barbecues, the one thing I personally will be looking forward to is the return to routine, particularly in my spiritual life. Summer takes a toll on my prayer life: busy activity- and children-filled days, combined with a more relaxed schedule, has proven – at least in my life – to be a recipe for a lax attitude toward daily devotion. And by the end of August, I am ready for a spiritual reboot.
So, if you’re like me and looking to return to – or begin – a life of more consistent devotion, here are four things you can do to press the reset button on your spiritual life:
1. Set up a prayer corner
“But He withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.” Luke 5:16
If you don’t already have a specific place in your home where you regularly pray, establish one. It should be cozy (like your favourite chair or spot on the couch) and include everything you’ll need (for example, a prayer book, journal and pen, Bible, rosary, etc.). Creating a dedicated space for prayer in your home is an excellent aid to daily devotion: its presence in your home reminds you to pray and, once you’re seated in your prayer corner, can signal to others in your home to not disturb you. (Theoretically, at least.)
2. Schedule a time
“Every Christian needs a half hour of prayer each day, except when he is busy, then he needs an hour.” - St Francis de Sales
Don’t leave something as important as daily prayer up to chance, in the hopes that at some point during your busy day, you’ll find the time to pray. Instead, schedule it in (first thing in the morning is usually best, before the day takes off with an agenda of its own). For me, this means that I wake up before everyone else so that I can spend fifteen minutes in prayer while the house is quiet and the rest of my family is still asleep.
3. Make a plan
“Consider the immensity of My love: if you want to know it well, nowhere will you find it more clearly expressed than in the Gospel.” - Jesus to St Matilda of Hackeborn
Whenever I’m rebooting my spiritual life after a busy summer, or even just an extended period of dryness during which I struggled to pray regularly, my tendency is to make a long list of all the pious things I’d like to be doing daily and attack it head-on: morning prayers, Gospel reflection, spiritual reading, rosary, and on and on and on. Historically, this has not worked out well for me; in approaching prayer like an enormous to-do list of items to check off, I invariably end up failing, disappointing myself, and eventually giving up altogether. Now, I know to keep things simple: I start with a brief morning offering and the daily Gospel reading, and that’s it. Once I’ve succeeded in re-establishing these habits in my daily life (perhaps in a couple weeks, or longer), then I add another.
4. Start with silence
“Silence is above all the positive attitude of someone who prepares to welcome God by listening.” – Robert Cardinal Sarah
If you do only one thing to kick-start your spiritual life after a period of laxity or dryness, let it be to invite more silence into your prayer. Before you pick up your rosary, or the Bible to read the Gospel, before you even utter the words of a prayer (either aloud or in your heart), be silent, by quieting the thoughts in your mind, stilling the concerns and anxieties in your heart, and simply making space for God. A good rule of thumb when you’re just starting out is to dedicate the first fifth of your prayer time to silence. For example, if you’ve set aside ten minutes to pray every morning, spend the first two minutes in silence. Set a timer, if need be!
Pope Saint Paul VI advises “if you have lost the taste for prayer, you will regain the desire for it by returning humbly to its practice.” The only way to return to (or begin) a more devout daily prayer routine is by setting out, sitting down, and devoting yourself to praying daily.
Holly Gustafson lives with her husband, James, and their five children, in Regina, where they attend Christ the King Parish. Holly received her Masters in Linguistics at the University of Manitoba, and now pursues her love of language through art, writing, public speaking, and unsolicited grammatical advice. The best advice she ever received was from her spiritual friend, St. Faustina, who told her that when in doubt, "Always ask Love. It advises best."
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