by Allison Mallory
Growing up as a cradle Catholic, I was constantly surrounded by prayer in my household. I remember my mother taking me to daily Mass at the old St. Catherine of Siena sanctuary (which was brand new at the time!) and memorizing the songs, prayers, and parts of the Mass before I ever stepped foot into a classroom. I would return home and watch Mother Angelica Live with my mom and pray the Rosary on colorful wooden beads. I began every day with prayer and ended it with prayer. My parents made sure that I had a solid foundation in the faith and gave me the tools to have a strong grasp on prayer.
My spiritual growth continued as I went to Catholic elementary school at St. Raphael’s and even through middle and high school where I clung to my faith to make it through the secular battlefield that is public school. In high school, I really made my faith my own. I found myself becoming more internal and separating from my classmates that were becoming more secular. I spent hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration. It was like God was reviving my spiritual battery to go and take on the world. The Rosary was my favorite prayer. I remember praying for everyone I came in contact with at my school on a day-to-day basis. I was known as “the Catholic girl” to my classmates because it was so evident that I was obsessed with my faith and loved to pray.
About three months after my high school graduation, I started taking college courses while still living at home. The number of responsibilities I had increased significantly. At the same time, I felt God pulling away from me in prayer, inviting me to go deeper with Him and not rely on the “spiritual feelings” I had when I was in high school. I had never experienced this drastic of a pull on my prayer life, so I did not know what to do. I thought that I had to maintain the way in which I was praying for everything to go back to being “normal”.
Fast forward two years, and, I will admit, I am still struggling immensely with prayer. There are days that I dread prayer, days when I avoid it, and days when it comes easy and love every second of it. I have come to the conclusion that my prayer life is how my worldly life will be: a messy roller coaster ride (and trust me, I hate roller coasters). God is calling me to constantly struggle to maintain a relationship with Him, as He does you because the struggle is what makes the relationship worthwhile. Our experience with prayer helps us prepare for the challenges in faith that we will face. Below are some things that I have done that have helped me become better at prayer:
Switch it up.
Try to find a different way God may be calling you to pray. One of my first mistakes was assuming that I had to always pray like I had before. I soon realized that there was no growth in that method. I started to get in the habit of using Lectio Divina to pray about a year ago. It has brought my understanding of Sacred Scripture to a deeper level.
Downloading the Laudate app will give you the opportunity to pray differently. The app contains the Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary podcasts, a flood of prayers, Stations of the Cross, as well as a host of Catholic media at your fingertips.
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
This is great for people who are constantly on the go: pray in chunks. Instead of trying to fit in a marathon prayer at the end of the day, finding little times of the day to say quick prayers keeps your mind focused on Christ all day long. I find that transition time from one task to another is the best time to do this. For example, when I am walking in between classes, I occasionally pull out my Rosary to get a decade in or pull out my phone to read some scripture. The constant reminders keep you focused on the Cross all day long.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, technology is extremely draining. While there are many benefits to technology, it has the potential to hinder our prayer life. I found myself zoning out on social media in the afternoons, wasting some precious prayer time. I began to leave my phone in other rooms of my house, or leave it on silent to give me some time to pray without distractions.
I also found that the entertainment that I was watching was not doing anything to aid my prayer life. At one point, I canceled my Netflix subscription and switched over to FORMED, a completely Catholic website with completely Catholic content. The content on FORMED provided me with better options for technology entertainment than the mainstream junk that I was usually watching. Check out some other options for better media sources from Tara Brelinsky’s Wind & Flame post “How the Great TV Fast Changed our Lives“.
Set a daily schedule.
I was once told that if you write a thought down, then it becomes real. I have found that writing out a daily schedule of things that I need to accomplish has made every task real. Instead of thinking, “It would be nice to get up early to pray Lauds tomorrow morning,” I write down, “Wake up at 6: Pray Lauds.” It becomes a real activity on my list for the day. Sometimes, we need to schedule in prayer so that it does not slip through the cracks of the day. Writing out the exact times to pray and what type of prayer to pray gives you something physical that you can reference to keep yourself on track with prayer.
Get a prayer buddy.
So you have tried everything and nothing seems to be working. Just like going to the gym regularly can be incredibly tough without an accountability partner, prayer can be just as tough without someone to help you along. Sometimes all we need is to talk to someone about our frustrations with our prayer life, and hear that it is regular to struggle. Other times we need someone to text us and remind us to pray. I mean seriously? If you ask a good Catholic to text you and ask you “Have you prayed yet today, and if so what have you done?” are you really going to lie and say “Yes!” if you hadn’t? I highly doubt anyone that wants to improve their prayer life would lie about praying!
Seek spiritual direction.
A prayer buddy is nice if it works for you. However, sometimes we need a little more than a friend to pray with. If you find yourself continuing to struggle with prayer, seek out a spiritual director who will help you grow in the faith. There is nothing to be embarrassed about when you need spiritual direction, in fact, it can be extremely fruitful. The priests in our diocese would be thrilled to have the opportunity to help bring you closer to the Lord.
Prayer is not always supposed to come easily. There have been many saints who have struggled in prayer. But the path to sanctity was not promised to be easy, but rather a rough path to take. The important thing to remember is that there is always a way to complete the path. Just when we start to lose hope, Jesus shows us a way to Him. Above all these suggestions, ask Jesus to show you that path that He wants you to take to Him. He will sustain you.