Are you a regular prayer? Or have you been in the past? What works for you now? A comfortable habit of prayer that works reliably at one period in our lives may not hold up in a time of trouble or just not be a good fit after a while. Sometimes it’s because our lives have changed or sometimes we outgrow a certain prayer style and need to go deeper. Even if your prayer life is steady and strong it can be worth trying a new way to pray or returning to one from the past.
Traditional prayer forms
Rote prayers, the ones many of us memorized as children, can be a comfort to return to. If we have been ‘away’ from our prayer life for a bit, these basic building blocks of faith and communion with God can sometimes bridge that chasm more quickly than we thought possible. These prayers can be broken down and examined, studied even, for their Scriptural and theological roots or they can become the background music for a more meditative prayer experience.
Praying the rosary is another way to fall into these prayers and let the familiarity of them carry you along. I have a friend who prays the rosary as she walks every day and asks for intentions on social media before she goes out.
Praying before the Blessed Sacrament or finding a daily Mass that you can get to, on your way to work or during your lunch hour, can give your prayer life the jump start it may need. Reading the daily Mass readings is a good way to discover or return to praying with Scripture. On their website, the U.S. Bishops offer brief video reflections, audio recordings, and the option to have the daily scriptures e-mailed to you.
Music and arts
For much of my life I’ve led music at Mass, and music has always been one of the most important ways to pray. I remember one workshop leader offering this little gem of insight, “Music is the most economical bridge to the transcendental.”
To me, what that means is that the quickest and easiest way to connect with God is through music. Praise and worship songs, classical sacred music, or instrumental music used as the soundtrack to other kinds of prayer can all provide this bridge. Meditating on beauty, whether heard or seen can be a powerful and emotional way to return to prayer.
Find an art museum or sculpture garden to visit. Add a print from a favorite artist to your living or working space – sacred art or secular – and let that be your reminder that God has made a beautiful world full of talented people for us to delight in.
Discover the riches of Catholic history
This past summer I had the chance to help lead a small young adult retreat in a beautiful spot. In one session we talked about some different Catholic spiritualities that have ancient roots and yet speak to our modern day lives: Benedictine, Ignatian, and Franciscan. Each of these approaches prayer in different ways for example: Lectio Divina, the Examen, and seeking God in nature and in those in need.
These are just a few examples from Catholic tradition and there are so many more. Becky Eldredge’s excellent and very accessible book “Busy Lives, Restless Souls” is a deeper dive into Ignatian prayer that nearly anyone can benefit from.
The traditional definition of prayer ‘lifting the mind and heart to God’ is lovely. Over the years, prayer for me has become the opportunity to let God love me. I think of the way a mother might comfort a small child by rubbing their back or holding her child close and singing softly. Prayer can be a comfort. It can be a challenge. It can be a call to live life more deeply and richly. May this be an invitation for you to discover a new way to pray or rediscover an old favorite.