If you’re involved with fellow Christians and you frequent social media, you’ve probably run into this familiar scene: a well-cropped photo with an alluring filter, an open Bible’s pages gently opened to an inspiring message, a highlighted line, a appropriately worn journal angled to the side, and a cup of coffee in the top corner. Yes, the Bible study picture. We’ve all witnessed it. Most of us have probably posted it. The likes and hearts validate us and our pursuit of faith.
Outside of the picture, though, how deliberate are our prayer lives? Do we spend more time curating the picture of the Bible and coffee than we do actually studying and praying? For the past month, I have taken steps to become more intentional in my prayer life. By intentional, I mean making prayer a priority, not just a passing breath as I roll out of bed or ready myself for sleep. But rather solid, uninterrupted time talking to the Lord.
Here are a few tips to help you cultivate your prayer life from passive to intentional:
1. Find a Companion Book. One of the best tools for prayer you can use is a book (or ebook). Personally, I prefer to use the daily Mass readings as a prayer support. I receive a dose of the Old Testament, the Psalms, a second reading from the New Testament (most days), and a message from the Gospels each day. While I highly recommend Abide in My Word for daily Bible readings, you can use any translation you’d like. I will read, and then pray for the needs on my heart based on the passages.
As of yesterday, I began reading the daily meditations in Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly of the Dynamic Catholic Institute. It’s a 40-day devotional series designed for Lent, but it appropriate for anytime of the year. It’s already challenging how much I thought I knew about Christ and the Faith.
2. Timing is Everything. I’ve heard an old saying that says “People have money for the things they want.” I believe this phrase is appropriate for our time: We have time for the things we want time for. We have time for the gym, to go out with our friends, and to watch our favorite television shows. But when it comes to intentional prayer, it’s “Sorry Lord, I just don’t have the time!”
How can we beat this trend? Simple: Find a time and stick to it. What works best for you? For me, it’s the morning. I set my alarm a few minutes early so I can pray and read without feeling rushed. Often, once I’m in the thick of prayer, I don’t miss those few minutes of sleep. I keep this timing consistent each day, even if it’s a day when I sleep in.
For you, mornings may not be the best timing. You may work nights, so the afternoon may be more applicable. Yet, I would still argue for the benefits of morning prayer time. You’ll find that when you start your mornings talking to the King of the Universe, the day flows with much more grace.
3. Use Technology. You thought I would tell you to hide your phone during prayer time, right? Partially. Technology can be a distraction during prayer time, but it can also be a great help to enriching your intentional time with God. Thankfully, there are many apps that can help you find your way to better prayer.
First, Catholics often get a bad rap for “vain repetitions” and scripted prayers as if we don’t pray from the heart (Spoiler alert: The book of Psalms is written prayers). I have found that the use of written prayers has helped me tremendously, and I am able to voice praises and concerns I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. With that in mind, my favorite app is Laudate. You can find it in the Apple Store and Google Play. One of my favorite prayers to pray using the app is the Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. What a great way to pray and meditate on the heart and love of Our Lord!
If you’re looking to boost your prayer life, don’t wait. Start today! Jesus is waiting for you to talk to Him, and when you choose to be deliberate in His presence, you won’t find disappointment. May God bless you as you begin (or recharge) your routine.