Got prayer? We don't always make time for it as we should, but as with all good habits, real change and real growth in the spiritual life comes with practice. Here are six simple practices that will increase your prayer time. Don't attempt them all. Do the one or two that appeal to you, and then stick with it. Don't overreach. Just try something.
Start the day differently. From dieting to exercise to getting things done before children awake, we all know that starting the morning right sets the tone for the day.
- Go "old school": As you rise, just kneel down by your bed as ask God to enter your day, and to keep you mindful of his presence as you go through your day.
- Put a Bible next to your bed and read a few verses of the Psalms, or from the Sermon on the Mount before you rise.
- Pray Morning Prayer with your coffee using a phone app or a copy of the Magnificat.
- Tape a "morning offering" prayer to your bathroom mirror and pray it as you dress for the day.
Set an alert or an alarm for prayer breaks in your workday. So many of us spend Monday through Friday at a desk, and I'm known for getting absorbed in my work and tuning out other noises. I set timers in my work calendar that go off on my computer or on my phone. Here are some times that work for me.
- Noon—Pray the Angelus. (This takes about three minutes.)
- Lunchtime—I often take a lunchtime walk, so I pack my rosary. Sometimes I listen to an app on my phone and pray along, or sometimes I just pray quietly in time with my paces as I observe the changing seasons around me.
- 3:00 p.m.—Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy (a total of ten minutes). The three o'clock hour has long been considered the "hour of mercy"—the hour when Jesus died on the Cross.
- Dinnertime—Pause and pray a grace before your meal. The grace is a good moment to ask others what we can pray for, and to lift their needs to heaven spontaneously after we bless and thank God for the food. Better yet, turn off all screens before, during, and after the evening meal, for at least an hour. Put on some uplifting or spiritual music, or converse with family members, and make even a daily meal a place of calm, welcome, and peace—as if Jesus was dining with you for that hour!
Go to First Friday Mass. Go ahead, put it on your calendar. Honestly, I needed to schedule it in, otherwise all the Fridays seem the same to me and I forget. Attending Daily Mass is a great goal, but it might be too big a goal for some, and these days, not all local parishes have weekday Mass times that fit the worker's week. Sometimes you can find a church closer to where you work; check out MassTimes.org to help. Maintaining fidelity to First Fridays is a great start.
Go to Adoration. Then unplug. I've got this on my calendar too. Find a chapel near you and, yes, schedule one hour for God, and one hour of free time for you after you go. Think of it as a kind of date between you and God. Learning to be silent, and learning to unplug are good disciplines. Try to do this weekly or monthly as your calendar and state in life allows.
This quote from Pope Benedict has haunted me, in a good way, when it comes to becoming more detached from my gadgets and my need to be plugged into silence.
Ours is not an age which fosters recollection... one has the impression that people are afraid of detaching themselves, even for a moment, from the mass media. For this reason, it is necessary nowadays... [to] be educated in the value of silence.
Rediscovering the centrality of God's word in... life means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose.... Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us... (Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, par. 66.)