How much time and energy is exerted in obtaining a degree from some prestigious University? How much blood, sweat and tears are expended to win a trophy from some sporting event? How much time and energy can even be consumed in preparing for a surprise Birthday party? If we can expend so much time, money, emotional and physical energy for such natural pursuits, should we not at least expend more of our time and energy in what is the greatest of all arts, “The art of all arts” and that is learning the Practice of Prayer?
St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church, calls prayer the key to salvation and following are five short, clear and concrete steps we can undertake to improve our personal prayer life, grow in holiness, be a source of holiness to many others and experience a nearly constant peace and overflowing joy!
1. Conviction. First, we must be convinced of the importance of prayer in our life and for our eternal salvation. St. Alphonsus expresses it concisely: “He who prays will be saved; he who does not pray will be damned.” St. John Damascene defines prayer: “Lifting of the mind and heart to God.” St. Augustine has a catchy way of expressing the indispensable character of prayer: “He who prays well lives well; he who lives well dies well; and for he who dies well, all is well.” A final easy analogy: as air is to the lungs, so must prayer be to our soul. No air for the lungs, death arrives quickly. Likewise, the prayer-less person can easily fall prey to temptation and fall into mortal sin and lose out on God’s Friendship
2. Confession. If we are not at peace with God, if our conscience is reproaching us, if we have unforgiven and unconfessed sins we will find that talking face to face with God as friends will be all the more difficult. If we hurt our friend, we apologize, seek forgiveness, and then return to amicable relations.
3. Set a time and a place to pray. Man is a creature of habit. We do certain things every day at the same time and place. Of capital importance should be to form the habit of prayer. This habit will result in our salvation and possibly the salvation of many others. We can pray at any time and any place and in any circumstance. However, there are “Prime times” that we should pray. Morning prayer upon arising from sleep, grace before meals, before going on a trip, the family Rosary in the evening before dinner, and night prayers—these are traditional times for prayer.
4. Mass and Holy Communion. By far the greatest prayer in the world is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Sunday Mass is obligatory, under pain of mortal sin. However, if we are truly in love with God, we should not aim for the minimum but rather the maximum! The greatest action and gesture under the heavens that will lead us to eternal life in heaven is to assist at Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion fervently, humbly, and with great confidence. The angels in heaven experience a holy envy towards us because even the greatest of angels cannot receive Jesus in Holy Communion. How privileged we really are!
5. Seek Our Lady of the Rosary. Our Lady of Fatima appeared in 1917 from May to October. In every one of the Apparitions she insisted on the praying of the Rosary. Blessed Pope John Paul II, in Blessed Virgin Mary and the Rosary, also insisted that we pray the Rosary and for two specific important intentions: 1) for world peace, 2) for the sake of the family. The Rosary priest, Father Patrick Peyton, coined these immortal proverbs: “The family that prays together, stays together….” And “A world at prayer is a world at peace.” The family should find a time and place and pray the Rosary every day. May the father who is the spiritual head of the family initiate this practice, bring the family together, and persevere in this prayer for the salvation of his entire family.
If we can implement these five concrete practices in our personal prayer life then we will bring forth fruit and fruit in abundance! May Our Lady of grace inspire us to undertake a daily growth in our prayer life.
By Fr. Ed Broom, OMV
Father Ed Broom is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary and the author of From Humdrum to Holy, which offers more words of wisdom for how to become a saint today. He blogs regularly at Fr. Broom’s Blog.