Throughout the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which concluded on October 19, there appeared a fair amount of hysteria. Some read the Synod as "an earthquake" while others bewailed it as a deep betrayal of Church teaching. In actuality, everyone should take a deep breath and allow the Holy Spirit to work in his preferred, often messy fashion.
15 Tips To Help Your Prayer Life
I once asked a class of college students to rate their spiritual lives on a scale of 1 to 10. Most were very hard on themselves and gave themselves a 5 or less. I then asked "how would you describe your relationship with God?" and again, most were not very positive. These were good Catholics.
When I asked for clarification as to the reason they were hard on themselves, most of the comments from the class were about difficulties in prayer. Why do we have such difficulties? Simple - we are human. But, before I spell out some tips on how to overcome difficulties, we ought to talk about why we pray.
St. Paul writes:
"With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit." - Ephesians 6:18
Paul doesn't just suggest, but commands us, to pray "in the Spirit" at "every opportunity". If we are to follow this command, it should be done out of love, not out of mere obedience. But, how are we to meet this high call?
He writes in another letter:
"The Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings." - Romans 8: 26-27
We can't do it alone. The Holy Spirit does, for us, what we can't do in our prayer. This is vital, because prayer is essential for success. But, by success, I mean success in the eyes of God, which is much different than success by the world's standards. The world says success is money, fame, power, possessions, pleasure, etc. But, God's idea of success is holiness - being the person God intends you to be. In other words, success = fulfilling the vision for your life that God has for you. Prayer is indisposable in attaining this process.
In the Gospel of Luke, Luke writes:
"he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary." -Luke 18:1
We must make prayer the center of our lives. It isn't a choice for us as Christians. But, it requires perseverance and faith to achieve such a prayer life. In fact, I believe a good answer to the question of "do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?" can be answered by pointing to your prayer life. If you pray, then you have a personal relationship with Jesus.
So, with this in mind, you might ask - why would any Christian let their prayer life slip and what can we do about it?
7 REASONS WE LET OUR PRAYER LIVES SLIP
Discouragement - Sometimes we don't know what to say, how to pray, what to do. Sometimes we are tired, feeling bad, or we just don't have a desire to pray.
Doubt - Is God really there? Can He hear me? Does He care, even if He exists? Does prayer really even matter?
Impatience - Prayers can seem to go on forever with only silence coming from heaven. When will God answer me?
Temptations - It is easy to pray when you aren't challenged internally through temptation. But, when the temptations enter in, it becomes drudgery.
Laziness - We sometimes just give up or never establish habits that sustain us in dry times or through the business of modern life.
Dryness - God seems distant and prayer becomes a chore. This can happen at any time.
Physical, Mental, or Emotional Problems - When we suffer, it is hard to pray, because we sometimes feel that a loving God would make it stop.
15 TIPS TO HELP YOUR PRAYER LIFE
Frequent the Sacraments - If you can make daily Mass even once a week, you have doubled your access to the greatest gift ever given humanity. Now, go to Confession at least monthly and you are surely going to get a multitude of graces. Put these on a calendar so you don't skip them.
Establish Good Habits - You should be able to rely on your habits to help you, and not hurt you, in your prayer. A good habit takes 66 days (at least) to establish. So, if you can commit to a routine of prayer for 2 months, you should start to lay the groundwork for healthy prayer habits.
Accountability Counts - You need someone who is more objective than you are to look at your prayer life and see how you are doing and how the Holy Spirit is working. A spiritual director is invaluable in helping. But, if you don't think you are ready, even have a holy friend to talk to can be good.
Try Different Types of Prayer - We all have different tastes in prayer, just like most other things in life. So, try out different types of prayer and see which ones work for you. One caveat - don't give up too soon on a type of prayer. It might take a good long time to discover whether it is good for you or not.
Fast Regularly - There is great power in fasting. We see it in Scripture when Jesus fasts and calls his disciples to do the same. When we have better control over the desires of our bodies, we can pray better.
Overcome Distractions - The simple way to overcome a distraction is to not give into it. Once you realize you are distracted turn your heart and mind back to your prayer, not to examining the distraction. This simple act is the easiest way to defeat distractions.
Don't Over-think Prayer - Too often we tend to complicate something that should come naturally to us. We are made for communion with God. Prayer is merely directing your mind and heart in the direction of God. If we over-complicate it, we get caught up in the externals.
Dryness is Good For Us - Dry prayers are a gift from God. Yes, we all long to have consolations in our prayer, just as a child longs for candy and having those denied is difficult, but healthy for us. It is in dryness that our faith is tested and strengthened.
Pray for Humility - To the extent we are humble is the extent of the power of God's grace changing our lives. Without humble prayer, God is unable to reach us, because we have no interior need for Him.
Work on a Proper Understanding of God and Self - I can not emphasize this one enough. Many of us struggle to understand how a perfect God could love us and want a relationship with us. But, this is due, mainly, to our bad perceptions of our own dignity and the way God loves us unconditionally.
Quiet - Our modern lives are filled with noise. We need to quiet ourselves to hear God - both internally and externally. Find a peaceful and quiet place to pray. Church is helpful in this respect - so if you can stop at a church, even for a short time, I recommend you do so.
Prioritize Prayer. Schedule it. Bump something else. Get up early. Do whatever you have to do, but don't let a day go by without spending time with the most important person in your life.
Don't Be Too Hard On Yourself - Struggles in your prayer life do not make you a terrible Christian. They are a universal experience of everyone who prays. So, don't get down on yourself for struggles.
Don't Wait To Start - procrastination is the enemy of prayer. If you feel called to pray, don't ever put it off.
Find and Use Good Resources - When you don't know what to do or how to do it, the resources can help. Resources include people, friends, books, websites, sacramentals (e.g. rosaries), Sacred Scripture, etc.
Busy Student Retreat October 26th-30th Mark your calendars now for the upcoming Busy Student Retreat. The retreat allows participants to take the focus off of the daily pressures and anxieties of academic life and to take time to deepen their relationship with God through prayer and meditation. Retreatants go to work and class as normal, but meet once a day with a spiritual director for thirty minutes, and spend another thirty minutes in meditation and prayer on their own. In addition to the times for prayer and fellowship, Mass and Confession (30 minutes before Mass) will be offered daily at 9pm. Please sign up on the Activity Board or through Flocknote by Wednesday, October 22nd. The retreat will begin Sunday October 26th with a meal and presentation following the 6pm Sunday evening Mass.
Back to School Getaway
We will be going to Sky Ranch in Quapaw, Ok Friday, September 12th - 14th to take some time away from the books, stress and hassle of the beginning of the school year. There will be time to relax, time to get to know some new people and time for fun activities such as paintball, zip line, bonfires and more. If you would like to attend, please stop by the St. Pius X Catholic Center and sign up. Cost for the weekend is $25.00. You will need to fill out a Medical Release From, which can be found here.
Top 10 Reasons College Students Need Catholic Campus Ministry
10 - Get answers to questions. You might have questions and you are bound to run into other students who have questions about the Catholic Church. Campus ministries can help you find the answers to the big questions in life and some smaller ones too!
9 - Make good friends for life. A real friend is someone who will look out for your best interests. You definitely need friends who will support you in growing in faith and respect you as a person. Many good friends in college will be friends for life.
8 - Help when you need to make better decisions. If college has a reputation for anything, it is bad decisions. Finding a place that will help you make wiser decisions is a must. Start by asking "what kind of person do I want to be?" and then act like you already are that person.
7 - Discover your path in life. Choosing a career, figuring out your vocation, etc - many things are figured out in college. For life's big steps you might need help and you can get it in campus ministries.
6 - Give back! College is a time to start to think more about others. The majority of college students are mostly on their own. It is time to start to think about how you can give back to God and others. Remember, if you graduate with a college degree, you will be more educated than the vast majority of others on this planet and that is a privilege and responsibility.
5 - Have fun without the guilt! Campus ministries can provide a great way to have a ton of fun, with great people, without all the guilt that goes along with partying and the other trappings of college life.
4 - Live a life of purpose and avoid the college trend of losing faith. There are all kinds of bad stats which show that college is a time of losing faith (one shows that only 25% of young adults attend church weekly). Don't be one of the college students that loses what is most important in life! Find out how to live a live of true purpose.
3 - Learn what is most important. If your classes teach you anything, it is that you don't know everything. The same goes for your Catholic faith. You should learn what the Church teaches on an adult level and most campus ministries provide classes and opportunities to learn more. Having the knowledge of a 15 year old won't cut it for a Catholic adult.
2 - Find out what prayer really is. College is a time for trying new things. Trying a kind of prayer you haven't really done is also important, in order to widen your horizons. It could be attending daily Mass everyday, an hour of adoration every week, a daily rosary, meeting with a spiritual director, etc. Whatever you try, don't ever stop praying. Prayer is the foundation for a relationship with Jesus -> which leads us to #1...
1 - Jesus Christ. What good is your time in college if you don't leave college with a closer relationship to Christ than you did when you entered college? Catholic campus ministry can provide you with the chance to grow in faith. Ultimately - what good is college without it???