I was hesitant to write on prayer for fear of feeling like a hypocrite. Truth be told, I do feel like one. You see, my prayer life is not terribly consistent or so amazing that I can tell you confidently that I am great at praying. I struggle to make the time for prayer and to tell the Lord that He is first in my life. Lately I can feel the wrestling deep within my soul: spend time in quiet prayer or scroll through my phone or watch a show? Sometimes, the show wins out. And sometimes, I am able to carve out space in my day for quiet prayer. What this means is that I’m trying. And I’m honest with the Lord about how hard it is sometimes, and I tell him that I’ll keep on trying.
Really, those are the two key ingredients to a fruitful prayer life, according to Jim Beckman, author of God, Help Me: How To Grow In Prayer: honesty and consistency. Like I said in the last blog post, God wants you to be real in your prayer. Don’t use flowery language that doesn’t describe what’s really going on. If you don’t feel like praying, tell him that. If you’re sorry for your lack of consistency, tell him that as well.
As a follow up to my two–part series on prayer, I highly recommend Jim Beckman’s book that is in print: God, Help Me: How To Grow In Prayer. When I was a youth minister, I had all my core team members read it because it is so practical and real.
Aside from taking time each day to learn how to pray, it’s important to be formed in your faith and learn the meaning of the scriptures and the teachings of the Church. Fr. Scanlan told us we know we heard the voice of God if it syncs with the God of scripture and does not contradict the teachings of the Church. The first way to know scripture is to read it. Yet since we lack a lot of the knowledge of the context of scripture, we need to study the scriptures and read books to help us understand the meaning.
For this, I highly recommend the App and the website, Formed.org. Many parishes, like mine, buy a subscription for their parishioners, but an individual can get a subscription for around $10 a month. It has a wealth of videos, ebooks, and programs that will form you in your faith. Currently on Formed, I am reading The Power of Silence by Robert Cardinal Sarah and listening to a talk by Dr. Sri on “Praying the Rosary Like Never Before.”
On Formed, if you want a systematic overview of the faith, you can watch the Symbolon program, used by many RCIA programs. They even have a series on marriage called “Beloved.” They provide dozens of Lighthouse Media CDs on topics like suffering, evangelization, the Mass, etc. They also offer a great kids selection of saint movies and Brother Francis shows.
Overall, between online and in bookstores, there are thousands of books, talks, and articles that will help you grow in your faith. It can be overwhelming to figure out where to start! So in addition to Formed.org and the book on prayer I mentioned above, here are a few more things that I have found personally transformative for my spiritual life. Use it as a stepping-stone to delve deeper into your faith:
How to Pray the Rosary More Deeply blog post by Catholic News Agency
The World’s First Love, book by Fulton Sheen
33 Days to Morning Glory, by Fr. Michael Gaitley
Theology of the Body unpacked:
Finally, be involved in your parish. If they offer bible studies, sign up for one. Be a part of a ministry and volunteer your time. If your parish offers adoration, sign up for an hour because I guarantee you that will change your prayer and your life. Currently, with 4 kids under the age of 6, it’s hard to volunteer my time. In the past, I have been a part of ministries, had an hour of adoration, done a bible study. Sometimes I still go to talks or their monthly hour or adoration and praise. We help with food boxes and do what we can, but our kids are so little that my time at home is most important. If you don’t have small children, don’t waste this opportunity to be a part of your parish. Volunteer in the ways that I cannot right now. If your children are older, get them involved with you! If your parish doesn’t offer a lot, start something! When my second was born, I started a mom’s group to fill a need in my life, and it ended up being a fruitful ministry that continues to this day even though I am not a part of it anymore.
Through prayer, study, and being a part of your Church’s ministry, you are on track for a fruitful spiritual life and a deeper relationship with the Lord. And, as you get further in your spiritual life, you can add the writings of the saints and early Church Fathers to your reading list. You will have a lifetime of reading ahead of you when you discover the richness of all the writings on our faith!