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The Habit of Prayer

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At the start of the confirmation process, I sit down with each of the candidates. One of the first things I ask them to do is lead us in prayer.
I often get a blank stare or a “I don’t know what to say.” I assure them that there is no wrong way to pray, as long as it’s in God or Jesus’ name. Many of us pray daily, some occasionally, and we know from the recent parish survey that many parishioners rarely pray. Why is this? I know for me, my struggles with prayer are rooted in being taught prayers when younger, but not being taught how to talk with God.

The droughts I have had in my faith have resulted in not knowing how to talk with and listen to God. While traditional prayers can be powerful, they need to be part of a larger prayer habit that includes sharing our joys and struggles with God.

This Lent, Fr. Dennis challenged us to daily intentional prayer during Lent. This might seem a little frightening for some of us, so as we prepare for Lent starting this Wednesday, we wanted to share some ways to begin creating a habit of prayer.

Here are a few acronyms that can help give structure to your conversation with God:

  • A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication)
  • P.R.A.Y. (Praise, Repent, Access, and Yield)
  • A.L.T.A.R. (Adore, Love, Thank, Ask, and Receive)

You can look each of these up online to learn these specific prayer structures. Below is a simple process that encompasses all of these prayer methods.

  1. Start by recognizing who God is to you. Whether that is Father, Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, Lord, Divine Physician, or some combination in your own words. This part of our prayer should express our wonder and awe of the Lord.
  2. After we praise and adore God, we should admit that we are not God. This means acknowledging the moments that we have tried to be a god or pushed God aside, and ask for God’s forgiveness and perseverance.
  3. Next is to give thanks to God for the blessings He continues to shower upon us. After all, everything is a gift from God. Take a few moments to express what you are thankful for today. What went well in your life today? Who was there to help guide you?
  4. Now that we have thanked God for how He is blessing us, we can entrust Him with our intentions. What are you struggling with and need God’s assistance? Remember, God already knows what’s on your heart, but like a friend, He desires for you to share and entrust Him with it. This is also the time to pray for others. Whom do you need to pray for, a friend, a co-worker? Pray for them by name and be specific about the intention.
  5. Finally, spend some time just to be with God. At first, you will be bombarded with distractions, so it will take some time to learn to block those out. But after dedicating time daily to this habit, over a few months or years, you will be able to embrace the silence. We know from Scripture (Elijah) and the Saints (St. Therese of Avila) that it is in this quiet that we can hear God speak to us. You can close your time of prayer with a Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be, or other favorite prayer.

Our Challenge for you this week is to start creating the habit of daily prayer. If you do not really pray daily, try just five minutes of prayer. If you already pray daily, are you using that time to intentionally speak to God?

-Andrew Schueller, M.A.T.L.