Turning Over a New Leaf: Tips for Building a Solid Prayer Life

"Turning over a new leaf" by Anni Harry (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Pexels.com (2017), CC0/PD

Not too long ago, I was scrolling through social media when I stopped on a post from a page I follow. The question that prompted a stop to my scrolling was asking, “When do you find the best time to pray?” Answers ranged from first thing in the morning to right before bed and anywhere in between. And, as I contemplated that answer, I realized my favorite time to pray is when I am elbow-deep in soap suds as I do dishes. With a window in front of me, the water on my hands and arms keeping me from walking away, and the music playing in the background, I am most apt to spend time not just communicating with God, but also listening to Him.

Life is extremely busy, and we can so easily slip into a routine which involves waking up, grabbing a cup of coffee as we herd children out of the door, school drop off, work, extracurriculars with the little ones, dinner, bedtime. Before we know it, we are falling exhausted into our own beds, thinking only of sleep, hopefully remembering before our heads hit the pillow that we need to speak with God.

Simply, we get too busy. Even for our Father in Heaven.

When we get too busy, we begin to get even more distracted. And, a vicious cycle begins: busy life, neglected God, priorities spiral, bad things start to happen, and we forget to blame ourselves. Instead, we start to blame God.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 is three words long:

Pray without ceasing.

But, when we are busy, we forget to pray unceasingly. Instead, we hurry up to pray, and then get sidetracked by life. Even the best of us fall into the trap of trying to fit more into our lives, in order to get to a point where we can sit and pray. We try to be Martha, rushing around doing every little thing, rather than Mary, who sat at the feet of Christ.

However, not all is lost! If you are reading these words, then it isn’t too late to turn over a new leaf. As the new year continues to slip hurriedly into its second month, there are some ways each of us can incorporate a little more God into our harried days.

Speak to God first thing in the morning.

Some people enjoy praying the Morning Offering. Others, like myself, are not praying a set prayer. It can be a long prayer like the Rosary, or something short and sweet. The point is to start every day with a little acknowledgement for the present of the present.

Set an alarm.

Every day, the alarm on my phone goes off at 3 PM. It’s time for me to acknowledge Christ and His Divine Mercy. I rarely make the time to pray the chaplet outside of Lent and the first week of Easter. However, I immediately acknowledge God on a daily basis when that alarm goes off. The alarm piques our consciousness, and reminds our consciences of taking a brief moment to breathe and pray.

Create an incentive.

Prayer sometimes feels like a chore and can easily turn into a monotonous one-way conversation. If that is the case, then build in an incentive. For example, make a commitment to pray a specific prayer daily, and withhold playing on apps and/or social media until after your prayer time has been completed. Rather than “checking the box” that you have prayed, ensure that you have focused well enough on not just speaking to Him, but also listening for God’s answers. Slow down and focus on the words of your prayer.

Invite God into your daily activities.

St. Teresa of Avila is quoted as saying, “For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.” If you are going to text or call a friend to tell them about a funny or cute shenanigan you observed, if you are going to sing praises, or if you are needing to air grievances, before picking up the phone, pick up a prayer. Offer the story, sing the praise, or air the grievance to the One Who is experiencing life through your lenses, too. There doesn’t have to be too many words, just a simple, “Lord, I love You,” or, “Lord, I give this moment to You,” will suffice. Let God be your best friend.

Ask for help.

It is daunting to ask another person for help. But each of us has been given a creature whose mission is to oversee our sanctification. If you are having difficulty inviting God into your day, ask your Guardian Angel for some assistance.

Invoke your guardian angel that he will illuminate you and will guide you. God has given him to you for this reason. Therefore, use him. -St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)

If you don’t remember to speak to your Guardian Angel on a daily basis, simply offer a prayer: “Guardian Angel, keep me on the path toward God’s will.” Furthermore, the saints in Heaven spend all their days in prayer. Allow them to pray for you, and for your intentions, by asking them to pray for you as well. And those Holy Souls of Purgatory also have time to pray for us, if only we ask. The perfect thing about asking our Guardian Angel, the saints, and the Holy Souls for prayers is that it doesn’t require us to share with another human when situations are a little more sticky than we would like. Yet their prayers are just as powerful as those offered by the people standing next to us.

Don’t give up.

Many of us start a new year with a new resolution. By this time of the year, resolutions are statistically beginning to be broken. Yet as a Catholic chaplain once shared during his homily, “Becoming a saint doesn’t require perfection. Rather, it requires us to pick ourselves up when we fall, dust ourselves off, and try again.” So, if you made a resolution to pray a decade of a Rosary daily, or even a full Rosary daily, and you fell asleep or forgot one day, don’t dwell on having forgotten. Rather, pick yourself up, trouble shoot if needed, and start again. Retired Lieutenant General Hal Moore once shared he was “in the business of eternity,” and in order to be in the business of eternity, we must be willing to try, try, and try again!

Being busy does not relieve us from our obligation to pray unceasingly. Nor does it require us to be locked away into a room. As a priest recently said at a retreat, “If we are just sitting in a room, it would be pretty easy to get to Heaven. But, no! As Catholics, we are challenged to go out and live as witnesses. We are meant to go out into this world and be Catholic.” Part of “being” Catholic is being actively engaged enough in the world around us, to pray for the world around us.

Prayer centers us. It pushes us. It challenges us.

We must allow prayer to carry us to the foot of the Cross, and bring us closer to others, as we are brought closer to God.

When is your favorite time to pray? What is your favorite place to pray?

Copyright 2020 Anni Harry


About Author

AnnAliese Harry is a proud Army wife to her husband Chris, and a mother to their young children. She has a BA in History, a Masters in Social Work, and has worked with disabled veterans, troubled teens, and in early childhood intervention therapy. AnnAliese volunteers with several military chapel communities and serves as a lector, EMHC, Adoration coordinator, and Catholic Women of the Chapel (CWOC) chapter president and vice president. She blogs about Catholicism, parenting, and military life at A Beautiful, Camouflaged Mess of A Life. Follow her on Twitter, on Instagram, or on Facebook.

1 Comment

  1. You are quite right that when we begin to neglect our prayer life, “a vicious cycle begins” and our priorities get all out of whack. I would be adrift without prayer. Feeling able to throw up a thought to him at all times and in all circumstances saves me: while scrolling through Facebook, while walking the dog, while feeling uncertain, frightened, bewildered, or discouraged – or the opposite: assured, courageous, and hopeful. I don’t usually feel the need to hold a long conversation with Him, though sometimes I ramble a lot! He is always with us, and I believe prayer is simpler than we make it out to be sometimes. It can be just one word, the name of our Lord perhaps when we don’t know what to ask for or what to give. That’s why this article is such a beautiful piece of encouragement. I often reflect on the words, “I make my life a prayer to you.” I’m not sure exactly how to do this, but I am certain He is always there and always listening and gently responding when we give moments over to Him.

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