Lent is a great time to renew/revamp/reassess our prayer lives, and establish one, if you don’t already have one.
Prayer, as I explain to my first graders, is just talking to God. That’s it. It’s not some big mysterious thing that takes a lot of time. It’s just talking to someone who loves you.
I know a lot of Catholics trot out the “well I go to Mass every week.” At the Catholic Women's Conference I went to two years ago, one of the speakers (Rebecca Dussault) made a good point. She is a former Olympic cross country skier, and compared prayer to talking with her coach and training. If she only met with her coach one hour a week, she wouldn’t get to know her coach, the coach wouldn’t get to know her, and her training wouldn’t be that great. Thus, how can we possibly expect to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength if we don’t talk to Him more than an hour a week?
There are so many different prayer traditions we have as Catholics; it is a rich tradition! As a Domincan, I’m partial to the rosary, of course. One set of mysteries takes me about 15 minutes to say. 15 minutes to say the Rosary is 1% of your day. If you can’t say five decades, say one, one the way to work, or as you clean the kitchen, or take a shower. Starting slowly is better than not starting at all.
There are many good Catholic prayer books available at any Catholic bookstore or Amazon. But you can also use your own words. Tell God what you need; tell Him what you’re thankful for; tell Him about people you love. The four main types of prayer are: intercessory (praying for someone else), praise, thanksgiving, and petition (asking Him to help you). Any combination of these is great.
If you like structure in your prayer life, try saying the Litrugy of the Hours. A great site for this isdivineoffice.org, where the prayers for the different hours are listed, and all you have to do is pray them! I have the four-volume set of the office, which I prefer, but I also love this website because it’s great on days when I’ve forgotten my breviary at home. (hey, it happens) The office is the daily prayer of the church, which priests are required to say. Monks and nuns chant these prayers as well, around the clock. Sisters and lay people don’t have to say as many “offices” of the Liturgy of the Hours. Usually I try to pray lauds (Morning Prayer), the Office of Reading, Vespers (Evening Prayer) , and Compline (Night Prayer). Morning and Evening prayer are called the “hinges” of the hours, since they sanctify both ends of the day–beginning and end. (I’ll be talking more about this in a separate post, since it’s a big part of my life as a Lay Dominican.)
A great book for beginners is Prayer Primer, by Fr. Thomas Dubay (or even not beginners–people who just want to read and learn more about prayer). This is followed by Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer. (If you want something that boosts your exiting prayer life, the latter book is a great way to start)
During Lent, you may want to pray the Seven Penitential Psalms. These are psalms that particularly express the idea of penitence and are particularly a propos during Lent.
Prayer is our intimate time of conversation with God. Sometimes you may wish to try contemplative prayer, or a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. Sometimes I’ve kept a prayer journal where I write down specific intentions, or insights I’ve gained in prayer.
Whatever you’ve been doing, this Lent, try to add more. By giving things up, like facebook (which I’m doing), there is more time for prayer and spiritual reading. Let’s use those pockets of time to talk to God and deepen our relationship with Him.