Prayer shouldn’t be that hard, should it? After all, it is (among other things) a conversation with God. I’m a chatterbox. It should be easy for me to natter away all day and all night.
But theory is a lot easier than the practical…
It’s very easy to claim that we don’t have time, that we’re just too busy to pray, that we’ll make it up with a rosary tomorrow or a novena next month. God looks at my Netflix history and rolls his eyes at my excuses.
About a year ago I decided enough was enough, and tried to work prayer into my every day. It turns out that slapping half an hour’s prayer onto the end of my evening just didn’t work – there was always something else to be doing, something ‘more important’.
So I had to be sneaky about it. Add in a little bit here and there. A few little tricks, so that before I knew it, prayer had simply become a part of my life, interwoven into the fabric of my being, rather than tacked on in a big lump. (Not that there’s anything wrong with an hour’s prayer, meditation, or study in a day! But it wasn’t working for me.)
I can’t claim to be anywhere near perfect – or even good at prayer – but I thought I’d share some tips and tricks which have worked well for me, and that I’ve managed to make stick. I hope they’ll also help you in your prayer journey.
1) Begin and end every day with a prayer. This was one of the hardest for me at first – I am not a morning person, so praying in bed before I got up was a fast track to falling straight back to sleep. So I made sure I got up, had a shower, and was well and truly awake before having a minute or two of quiet prayer, and the same in the evening – a much more realistic aim than having a big chunk of prayer time at one time of day. After a while it became second nature, and now even on the days (okay, weeks, or sometimes months) when prayer is going badly for me, I have at least started the day well. Which leads me on to…
2) …Acknowledge that it’s hard. Prayer is tough, everyone! But you don’t need to stress it not being perfect, or worry about having off days. The best trick the Devil can play on you is that because you’re distracted or not in the right mood that it’s not worth trying. No-one’s prayer is perfect. Just do your best. And hey, if you get distracted, if you miss a day, if you forget… try again tomorrow.
3) But it can be fun! If you have little ones, making prayer cards for their missals or Mass books is a lovely creative activity to keep them occupied. Or how about a prayer scramble – everyone in the family writes down some intention to pray for, whether it’s a family friend or a tough exam coming up, and put them in a hat. Everyone draws one out, and that’s their prayer intention for the week. In stressful times it can be so comforting to know that others are praying for us.
4) Work the saints. They are our intercessors with God, plus there are thousands of wonderful stories. Make it fun by printing off some little prayer cards around the house – a prayer to St. Cecilia on the piano before you begin to practice, St. Lawrence in the kitchen, St Raphael in the bedroom.
5) Little and often. One good quality decade is worth more than a whole rosary said half-heartedly or distractedly. This is where the sneaking comes in – a little prayer to St. Anthony when you’ve lost your keys, or to St Dymphna ahead of a nervous or stressful time. A little bit of prayer is always better than none, and before you know it, you’ll have worked it into your every action. And, when everything goes wrong, when you’re having the worst day of your life: have a cup of tea and say a Hail Mary. Never fails.
6) Set reminders. Put a timer on your phone, or a post-it note on the mirror. Mix it up a bit – it’s easy to tune out reminders when you’re too used to them, so you’ll need to keep changing them over. Better still, ask friends or family to remind you, and you remind them in turn. We’re a family of God, remember. Let’s work together on this.
7) Take all of the above with a pinch of salt. Prayer is very personal; it’s about our relationship with God, and only you can say what works for you. I am perfectly happy saying the rosary (okay, singing) whilst folding laundry – it’s soothing and distracting and works prayer into my every day – but others would be horrified by the prospect. Try lots of different methods of sneaking prayer into your every day, and let me know what works for you in the comments!
Wishing you every luck in your prayer journey!