There are many steps we can all take to improve our prayer lives in 2021. (Getty Images photo)
It doesn’t matter how much we pray every day. It could be 10 minutes or four hours. The truth is, we could all use more of it.
For busy people (so, basically, everyone) and parents, that can sound like an absolutely impossible task. Asking a mom or dad, who already has trouble finding time for all their responsibilities and tasks, to find 10 more minutes for prayer each day might sound unfeasible and, frankly, wasteful. It conjures images of a frustrated Martha, glaring resentfully toward Mary, kneeling at the feet of Christ while there is a house full of hungry Apostles to feed.
But here’s a truth we all know deep in our bones, even if the busy-ness of life makes us constantly forget it: the more we pray, the more we can do. Prayer keeps us spiritually fit for trials we can’t yet see coming. Beyond that, without prayer, all our actions caring for our family and communities are empty and without purpose — it is our relationship with God that lends meaning to all that we do.
So don’t be afraid to jump-start your prayer life in 2021, even if it’s only by the smallest bit. Here are some tips to get you started.
Don’t be afraid of spontaneous prayer. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking prayer has to be a choreographed ordeal, or some kind of well-rehearsed presentation. It can be much more simple than that. “As Catholics, it’s easy to form people in the greatest prayers ever written — the Our Father, the Hail Mary — but the Lord wants to love you personally in your heart and he wants to know your voice and hear your words,” said Margaret Rhody, associate director of the Office of Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. “So while he does want you to pray with the greatest words ever written, he also wants your words because they’re yours.” Moms can understand this even better than most, Rhody points out. “Don’t you want to put the stick figure crayon drawing from a child that loves you on your refrigerator? There are the great works of art like the Mona Lisa and the Pieta, and we appreciate them, but on our refrigerator is the stick figure crayon drawing.”
Start with just 1 percent. The Office of Evangelization is launching a program for the first 30 days of 2021 that is geared toward everyone, but is an especially perfect fit for busy parents. The One Percent Challenge invites participants to grow in deeper relationship with God and sacred Scripture through simple, guided audio reflections delivered right to your email inbox. For more information, visit archmil.org/one-percent-prayer or https://catholicherald.org/featured/welcome-home-prayer-cards-emphasize-mass-evangelization-prayer.
Assess your prayer life. Spend a day paying attention to how much time you spend in prayer. It doesn’t have to be scrupulously counting minutes or prayers — simply pay attention to the number of times you turn your thoughts to God or engage him. What are some practical, simple ways to increase these moments of encounter with the divine? Do you have five minutes on your lunch break that could absorb some time for prayer? Two minutes in the morning for a brief Scripture reading? Ten minutes at night to reflect on the day?
Visit the Blessed Sacrament. Sometimes the challenge for parents can be finding space in the home to mentally give oneself over to God. Chances are a parish close to you offers Eucharistic Adoration at least one day each week. Getting out of the house can feel like a mini-pilgrimage and the drive there often helps settle your thoughts. Some adoration chapels even have 24-hour adoration, allowing for prayer time after the kids go to bed or before they wake up.
Identify the hardest part of your day. Is it that first moment of getting out of bed in the morning? The school drop-off? Making dinner? Whatever it is, say a prayer before it. Ask God to accept this as a sacrifice and bring you closer to him. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and it doesn’t have to be articulate. “Prayer is, for me, an outburst from the heart,” wrote St. Therese of Lisieux. “It is a simple glance darted upwards to Heaven.”
Pray for priests. The Monthly Prayer for Priests page on Facebook issues a calendar every month that lists a different priest to pray for each day. Print it out and put it on your refrigerator; make a habit of glancing at the names and offering even the smallest hardships that day for the priest of the day.