Prayer is how I began to know God. Before that, my relationship with Him was mediocre at best. I was raised Catholic, and God was very much central in our lives and in my upbringing, but formal prayer was not something I even thought about. I prayed a few prayers before bed out of respect for God, but a rosary, never.
Prayer Is a Process
It wasn’t until I was married and had children that I developed a devotion to the rosary through the invitation of a friend. Honestly, it took a long time to make the rosary a daily priority, and much longer to understand the importance of prayer and how it transforms our lives. It took time to learn how to pray. Praying was hard and uncomfortable at first, mostly because I didn’t know the prayers or the order they should be prayed. I was also worried about whether I was doing it correctly, about how others perceived me, and if they noticed that I needed a pamphlet to pray. I realize now how silly that was, but for a while it was a real obstacle.
Prayer Is Learned
I memorized the rosary and the mysteries over time, and along the way I picked up several other prayers. The words to these prayers are so beautiful they drew me closer and closer to God. Even now, when I am struggling to pray, I return to the prayers I have collected over the years. These prayers bring me right back to where I need to be, right back to what is most important: Jesus. Prayer begins verbally and then it grows to become something more, something that touches you deep in your soul, in that place within where God resides. Now prayer isn’t hard or uncomfortable for me anymore; it’s easy and familiar. My prayer life went from conversations with the God I know exists, to an intimate awareness of His presence within me. This awareness is accompanied by floods of consolations, and that is how Jesus brought me to Himself. He increased my love for Him by loving me so tangibly.
Dryness in Prayer
There are times when I sit before Jesus and I experience nothing in prayer. It is dry and seems totally fruitless. I know it isn’t, but it seems that way. My mind easily wanders and distractions plague me. I find myself thinking about all the things I need to do that day, or the TV show I watched the night before. I try to refocus and I’m suddenly checking my phone (which I should have left in the car in the first place). It is a vicious cycle that sometimes controls me, more than I can control it. At times I’m successful and I stay in the chapel and pray, but other times I cannot calm my mind and I leave. Dryness in prayer affects us all, and it can last a long time. I have found that to be a good thing because the longer it lasts, the harder I search for Jesus. Through this dryness, this separation from Christ, my love for Him only deepens. Only God knows how many deserts we need to endure in order to come to fully love Him.
Formal and Silent Prayer
Formal prayers are good and necessary. I pray a rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet every day, along with some spiritual warfare prayers and a few other devotional prayers. I love chaplets and litanies too, but there is only so much time in a day, and it isn’t always possible to pray all of the prayers I’d like to. I have been told by different people, over the years, that I need to say certain prayers on certain days because there are promises attached to them. It is true, there are promises attached to all kinds of prayers, but I don’t believe God requires us to pray them like He does the rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
When I was young in my faith, I felt a great deal of pressure to pray so many prayers and now, I don’t feel any pressure at all. I go to Mass, the greatest prayer of all, and then to adoration. There, I sit silently before the Blessed Sacrament and soak in all that the Lord has for me. The more I open myself to Him, the more He reveals Himself to me. This kind of prayer changes who I am inside, and by extension, it changes the people I encounter in this life. This is what God requires, a giving of self, an opening so that He can live in and through us. This is a beautiful way to pray.
Prayer Is Charity
I don’t pray out of obedience, I pray out of love for God and love for my neighbor. In recent weeks, we have witnessed devastation through hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires. Many of these people have lost everything, including their lives. The Las Vegas shootings were so incomprehensible, it is hard to fathom it actually even happened. The aftermath of these horrific tragedies will last a lifetime for thousands of people. There is so much going on in the world today. It is overwhelming at times, and things appear to have taken an ominous turn. But prayer from the heart has the power to change lives. We can lift all of these people up in prayer. And through our pleading, Jesus will, without a doubt, pour His grace upon them and sustain them through these dark times. Don’t underestimate the power you have as a Christian to affect the lives of others through prayer. Jesus said:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
Prayer is putting our love and compassion for the Lord and our neighbor into action. It is one way that Christ lives through each one of us.
Anima Christi Prayer
I’ve included my favorite prayer, the Anima Christi. It embodies everything Jesus is, everything He has done for us, and everything I hope and pray for:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death, call me.
And bid me come to Thee.
That, with Thy saints I may praise Thee
Forever and ever. Amen