Growing Our Prayer Lives
March 2013 — Vol. 2, Issue 7
Fr. Jim Gallagher, C.S.C.
One of the most powerful tools for discernment is prayer.
Simply put, prayer is spending time with God. If our vocation comes from God and if one is interested in hearing that call, then spending time with God cannot hurt our chances of hearing the call. Indeed, finding the time to grow in one’s prayer, both in the time spent praying and in the quality of the prayer itself, helps in our search as we grow in our connection with the Lord. We allow His grace to seep into our lives.
So, anyone looking to do the work of discernment should also do the work of striving to grow in their life of prayer.
However, there can be difficulties involved in the process of developing one’s prayer life. For one, someone could feel that they do not know enough about prayer to know how to grow in it. For another, one might know a good deal about prayer and be tempted to try too much too fast. The key in both of these cases would be to grow slowly in one’s efforts, not getting intimidated by the need to do more or moving too fast and trying do too much too soon.
The first step in growing your life of prayer is to stick with what you know. Take what you are doing, and grow it a bit. Slow it down. Often we say our prayers but we don’t necessarily enter into the time prayerfully; we do not allow ourselves to be present to the prayer. Take what you do and slow it down, giving it a bit more time. Think about what you are saying and what you are doing. Whether the prayers are traditional devotions or your own words, take a little more time with it to be intentional about what you are doing.
The second step with growing your life of prayer is to expand what you know a bit. See if there might be something more to bring to your prayer. One way to think about this would be to look to add balance. If your prayer is mostly you talking with God, sharing your thoughts and concerns, then look to add in a way for God to speak to you. Maybe add some time with scripture. If your prayer is mostly sitting in silence, look to find a way to give voice to some of your thoughts and concerns. If your prayer is sticking with known devotionals, look to find time for silence with the Lord or to find your own voice in speaking with the Lord. Take what you have and add a little more to it to broaden out the way that you spend time with the Lord.
Another step to growing your prayer is to look to someone for a bit of guidance. Indeed, this may be better placed as the first step. When we try to move forward on our own, we can risk not seeing the most important ways that we are in need of growth. This is where spiritual direction can come in handy. It can be quite helpful to have the guidance of someone who is experienced in the life of prayer, who has an understanding of a range of ways to pray, and who can coach you along a bit.
It is likely that any of us at any time can stand to grow in our life of prayer. This does not mean that we need continually to add in more and more time in prayer. It means taking time to increase our attentiveness to that time. It means pushing to make sure that time has priority amongst the many other demands on our time. It means pushing a bit to make sure that our time in prayer is, indeed, drawing us to a greater awareness of God’s grace at work in our lives.
The wonderful thing about working on growing in your life of prayer is that it is not only a great tool for discernment; it is a great tool for a life of faith. A deeper relationship with the Lord will serve any of us well.
Prayer from the Tradition
Prayer of Consecration to St. Joseph
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