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A guide to prayer
August 15, 2011
by Fr. Thomas Balluff, St. Mary of Czestochowa Church, Delano

Eucharistic adoration is incredibly powerful and incredibly important to the devotional life of the church. I would like to share with you a guide to prayer that may help us to understand how to pray more deeply from the heart, especially when adoring our Lord at times of adoration.

Finding God in prayer may seem like an impossible task. In the “busyness” of life, it’s difficult to find the car keys, much less the Almighty! How can we find God in prayer? What steps do we follow?

There is not just one path in such a venture, but there are guidelines that, when followed, should make the task at least possible.

Accept these principles

• Believe, even if you haven’t yet experienced the fruits, that prayer will eventually lead to God.

• Realize that prayer is a discipline, and you must commit yourself to the discipline and the process.

• Know that it will take time; how much time cannot be known.

Whether you are a pilgrim on your journey, lost and seeking wholeness, wounded and being healed, or a sinner becoming a saint, it’s important to pray each day. Acceptance of the daily need for prayer, along with the realization that it’s a difficult habit to form, is a first and necessary step in the process.

Choose something from each prayer group

1. Structured prayer: Mass, rosary, Liturgy of the Hours, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, litanies

2. Contemplative prayer

3. Spiritual reading

4. Fasting: Smaller meals, no eating between meals, or fasting on water and one piece of bread.

5. Giving alms to the poor

A healthy prayer life must include something from each category of prayer, and, ideally, every day. It’s similar to choosing food groups: We do best on a varied diet.

The specific prayers chosen are as individual as the person choosing them, except that contemplative prayer ought to be seen as a requirement.

And remember that prayer, fasting, and alms giving are the three pillars of the Christian life.

The Eucharist is God’s gift to us; our response ought to include charity to those in need.

Find the right place(s) to pray

• Church

• Quiet, private place at home

• Library, park, other place conducive to contemplation

The right place to pray can make all the difference. Choose one where you can focus on God without distractions.

Find the best times to pray

“Times” (plural) is the operative word. Prayer ought to segment the day as a respite and reminder of God in the midst of “busyness.” It may work for a select few to pray two hours every morning and then sail through the rest of the day centered and calm in the presence of God, but, for most, slogging through shorter time periods will be the reality; and thus, more frequent pauses to pray will be better.

The Liturgy of the Hours is modeled after the Jewish custom of stopping several times during the day to pray, and there is good reason for this: Frequent awareness of God can lead to constant awareness of His presence in and around us – the ultimate goal.

Find a personal guide for the journey

Saints and mystics throughout the ages have benefitted from a knowledgeable guide to assist them on their journey to holiness: a spiritual director, pastor, or counselor. It can be difficult to accept that you might need help. Our culture is filled with independent thinkers and self-help books that do not promote the humility to say that you cannot do it alone. It’s good to remember that God has sent others to help you on your journey.

How to begin

Beginning a life of prayer is no easy task. Realize, however, that you may already do certain prayer activities – if not every day, several times a week. Plan to continue those and see what can be added. Outline a goal and be realistic in how to achieve it. This is a process that will evolve with time and practice.

Contemplative prayer

Without a doubt, contemplative prayer is the most challenging prayer form. To sit quietly before God for an hour every day may seem impossible, but in so doing, God can work in the depths of your being. It is in contemplative prayer that you are most likely to encounter the transcendent God, to come to the most personal relationship with Jesus, and to realize the fruits of the stirrings of the Holy Spirit.