Final Preparations by Cecelia Reynolds
So, Advent is almost over and maybe, like me, you think you didn’t make it as prayerful as you planned. We want to be prepared for Christ’s coming, but life seems to put up roadblocks. That’s when it is important to remember God doesn’t expect perfection. He knows we will make mistakes. The fact that we made a conscious effort to improve our prayer life during Advent shows we were on the right track. The important thing is to keep on trying. We can and must strive to better our prayer habits.
Creating a Daily Habit of Prayer
A priest told me in confession, as I was telling him my prayer habits were less than stellar, “it is imperative when you leave this confessional you commit to creating a consistent habit of daily prayer.” He probably didn’t say exactly those words, I’m always a little flustered in the confessional. The point being, developing a prayer life is an ongoing process but one that should not be shirked. Things that worked in my teens are not the same things that will work in my 30s or 40s. It also needs to be reasonable. Don’t plan out a regimen that cloistered monks couldn’t keep up with!
How to Structure Your Daily Prayer
I was taught, and many of you learned this or something similar, that prayer needs to contain four things: Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (ACTS). This seems easy on the surface, but often our prayer tends toward supplication, what we need or want and thanksgiving, thanking God for our blessings. Adoration and contrition are not included as consistently. We need to be more mindful to include them every day.
Obviously, daily scripture reading is an important part of prayer, but often we don’t know where to begin. And let us not forget our daily rosary, that the Blessed Mother requested at Fatima and most of her other apparitions. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) has a great section on prayer, a definite read if you are looking to be inspired in your prayer life. Part Four of the CCC is entitled “Christian Prayer,” and is divided into two sections, the first addressing prayer and the second breaking apart and examining the Our Father, the prayer Jesus gave us. The Mass contains all of the elements required (ACTS), making it the perfect prayer of the Church. The Catechism tells us, “Prayer internalizes and assimilates the liturgy during and after its celebration.” (CCC2655).
Resources to Boost Your Daily Prayer
Publications like the Magnificat and Benedictus can be valuable for reading through the daily prayers and the Mass if you aren’t always able to attend daily Mass. There are a multitude of apps that provide these prayers as well. Another resource to employ to improve our prayer life can be found in the saints and their writings. Many saints who were priests have books of sermons, so you can follow the liturgical year. There are books with daily quotes or reflections. This is a great starting point, and trust me, the Holy Spirit will use it to touch your heart. I often find myself wondering how the reflection was so necessary for me on the particular day I read it. But remember, as Tom used to say, there are no coincidences, only Christ-incidences!
Some books I have found useful for daily meditations and creating a strong prayer habit are Rose Among Thorns, St. Francis de Sales; My Scriptural Rosary, Rutkoski; Through the Year with Fulton Sheen; Mother Teresa, In My Own Words; Words of Light, inspiration from letters of Padre Pio, and many more. Do not be overwhelmed, start small and add as you go, deciding what works well for you. I started reading the Mass readings for the day and one reflection from St. Francis de Sales. The important thing for me was to make a habit, once that was established it became easier to add or change things. Take this time to begin developing or improving your daily prayers, ask for the Lord’s help as you await the arrival of His Son, and be open to the Holy Spirit’s direction. It is the most wonderful time of year, the promised Savior is coming!