I think we’ve all seen them. You know . . . the holy people. And we always want to be more like them – we want to be the prayer warriors, the people that are in church, praying our rosaries, hanging out with Jesus in the Adoration chapel, learning scripture and reading spiritually inspiring books.
When it comes down to it, we just want to be holier – we want to be closer to Christ, we want to be people of prayer. So, what’s the secret? How do we do that?
So, I’m a runner. I know that’s a strange thing to throw in right there, but much of how I view the world is in that prism. I’ve run a few marathons, and I’m training for another one now. And I’ve learned – you don’t just wake up one day and decide to go run a marathon. Running a marathon is the culmination of months of work. Getting just to that starting line, much less the finish line, is the result of a pattern of behavior that leads to the ability to do it – it is a way of life and it is a daily decision.
Being a person of prayer is very similar – it is a daily decision, and it is something we are constantly working on. There are a few secrets of running that can translate closely to growing in our spiritual lives and growing as people of prayer.
1. Set small goals and don’t expect huge changes and leaps overnight.
We have to have the right sorts of expectations. For example, we shouldn’t expect that we can go from not having a regular prayer life to expecting ourselves to spend an hour in prayer every day. It’s not part of our habit – and maybe we wouldn’t even be sure of what to do with that hour of prayer if we managed to fit it in. Some starting suggestions could be to read each day’s mass readings, or the daily reflections in the Magnificat books. Maybe a Chaplet of Divine Mercy or a Rosary. I think it starts with daily movements towards Christ – movements of letting God into our hearts and of remembering that we’re not God and we’re not in control.
2. Do it differently.
When I started training for a marathon, I just ran. I’d go outside and just put in miles, at the same pace and at the same place every day. And routine can be good. But it wasn’t the most effective way to prepare my body. Our Church has so many rich forms of prayer that we can all find one that we are comfortable with – to use as our baseline – but also other forms to help stretch ourselves and grow in holiness with. Learn about all the different forms of prayer. The Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Mass, Adoration, prayer groups, scripture studies – the list can go on and on.
3. How do I learn about all these different forms of prayer?
Well, someone who wants to get serious in a sport finds a coach to help them along. Why should our prayer life be any different? Find yourself a spiritual director – someone that can help show you the way, challenge you, push you and respond to your need to ask questions and learn about this journey. Don’t know where to start? Your own parish priest might be willing to work with you or maybe point you to others who would be suited to also help you on your journey.
4. Run to the Sacraments!
Fall back on the oldest and most trusted forms of bringing us right with God – the Sacraments. Make Reconciliation a regular part of your life. Yearn for the Eucharist to bring you new life. Support others on their journeys towards Confirmation, Holy Orders or Marriage. Make sure that the Sacraments are pervading your life.
5. Stick with it.
There are plenty of mornings that I’m lay in bed thinking that I would love another hour or so of sleep. But something pulls me up. There are always errands to run, books to read, dishes to clean, laundry to fold – and even if we skip our prayer time and do that, there’ll be more to do. So keep those priorities straight and stick with your prayer schedules.
Please be praying for me as I work towards becoming more of a person of prayer. And I’ll be bringing your desires of holiness to our Lord. See you in the Eucharist.