Ah, prayer. Conversation with God, simple as it sounds, can bring with it some major struggles. There seems to be no end to advise out there on how to handle distractions, dry spells, and lack of time for prayer.
There are plenty of us who are working to improve our prayer life during the New Year. That’s why we put together the best advice from modern Catholic authors and classic Catholic saints on how to improve your conversation with God. Here are fifteen of our favorite tips that will calm the anxious feeling that starts when you make that first sign of the cross.
1. Think of Prayer as mental exercise in loving God
In his famed book Time for God, Father Jacques Philippe says: “Mental prayer is basically no more than an exercise in loving God. But there is no true love without fidelity. How could we claim to love God if we failed to keep the appointments we make with him for mental prayer?”
Instead of thinking of prayer, think of it as an opportunity to have a conversation with someone you love. If we pray out of love for God instead of thinking of prayer as a burdensome duty, it won’t seem as much of a burden to set an appointment in our calendar to pray.
2. Dedicate your prayers to Mary
There is no better of example of prayer than the Blessed Virgin Mary. She pondered God’s actions in her heart throughout the Gospels.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the founder of the Militia Immaculata wrote: “”Prayer is powerful beyond limits when we turn to the Immaculata who is queen even of God’s heart.”
3. Try praying with others
The Bible tells us that when two or three are gathered in God’s name, there He is in the midst of them. The same can be said with prayer. Although private prayer is essential to the Christian life, try tapping into the beauty of public prayer as well. Maybe this year you can join a Bible study or prayer group.
St. John Vianney wrote: “Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that.”
4. Realize that not all prayer is verbal
Although we typically associate prayer with spoken or mental words and sentences, this isn’t always the case. Saint Teresa of Avila, the master of the Interior Life said: “Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.”
Another way to incorporate non-verbal prayer is to invite God along on your day. If you need to make a run to the grocery store, or mow the lawn, invite God to join you. By dedicating even the seemingly mundane tasks to the service of God, you tap into the practice of praying continuously like St. Paul suggests in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
5. Realize that God wants to know about the small parts of your day.
If prayer is currently something you only think about as your last resort when life gets hard, remember that God wants to know about every detail of your life, not just the events when we need to lean on him the most.
Christ told Saint Faustina: “My daughter…why do you not tell me about everything that concerns you, even the smallest details? Tell Me about everything, and know that this will give me great joy.”
6. Whatever you do, don’t forget the beauty of silence
Today’s world is constantly buzzing with distraction. Social media updates ping on our phone, people ask for our attention and our to-do lists tug at us. In the midst of all the noise, we must remember that need for finding God in the silence.
Saint Mother Teresa said: “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”