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Wednesday, April 27, 2011


An acquaintance of mine has been struggling with prayer and asked this question:

So, lately for the last year or so, I have had really big problems concentrated.

Do you have any prayers that would be more suitable for someone with my problems than, say, the rosary? They could be in English, Latin if you're ambitious, or Norwegian if you're really ambitious. :lol:
Or any other tips?
 My initial response was this:

There is a book called the Encharidion. It is a book of formal prayers. Another is the Manual of Prayers put out by the North American College. This link has many other options too...

They make prayers much easier...and open the door to helping you concentrate.

If you're looking for more spiritual stuff, I would suggest In Conversation with God.
 My friend Erin popped in with this response:

Yes - prayer books, prayer cards, reading the Scriptures. Written text can help the mind stay focused.
And that prompted me to share this, so now I am sharing it with all of you....

That's really the whole point of "formal" prayers, isn't it? When we read through and repeat a prayer like the Our Father or the Memorare, we're helping to bring normalcy to what can be and often is a very difficult thing to do. Prayer.

I like to say that I have a very developed sense of prayer and I do. But what I don't do very well is transform that into free mental prayer. I don't meditate very well and I never have. I rely on structure in my prayer life to communicate with God and the saints. It isn't something that I think about very often because it is something that is so ingrained in me that I don't need to think about it.

Here is a snapshot of my prayer life on most days:

1. First two hours of the Office (early am)
2. Daily Mass, when I can
3. Rosary (over lunch, or when I have a down 20 minutes or so)
4. Next three hours of the Office (after Mass)
5. Lectio Divina (Read from the Bible), Mondays -- Perpetual Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Tuesday -- Lives of the Saints, Wednesday -- Holy Hour, Thursdays -- Friday to Sunday usually nothing (Stations on Fridays in Lent, Saturday Confession every other week, or so) (depends on my availability, usually around 7pm or so...)
6. Last two hours of the Office (before bed)
7. I pray the Angelus when I get up, at lunch and at supper
8. Meal prayers

That is pretty much how I pray. Notice that outside of the Holy Hour, where I do meditate, there is very little "free" prayer. It is all structure. And I started this regiment essentially in 1994, with very little change. What this accomplishes is focus. What this does for me is keeps me on track with how to pray and it allows for me to know that my prayers are clear, concise and without much confusion. Do I deviate, sure...everyone does, but I try to stay on this target because I know that I have had my conversation with God and that He has heard me. All tolled it takes me about 2 hours a day to get all of this in. It is broken up throughout the day, so it isn't like I just sit and do it.

My biggest struggle has always been staying focused when the prayer is more "free-formed." But, it is because of this structure that I've been able to keep my prayers to God consistent and very real. I know from day to day that I'll be talking with Him and letting Him know what is going on in my life. He knows already, but the accountability is still there.

I do fail. There are days where I don't complete everything. I don't always make it to Mass...even more infrequently now that I'm full time traddy (there haven't been many opportunities to go to an EF daily Mass), and if something else fails, it is the 7p-ish reflections.

If I could develop something more, it would be unstructured prayer. I am not good at it. I try and try, but I've never been able to get the hang of it, nor do I think that I ever will. That's OK though...I know my limits and I have found a way to stay focused.

It is different for everyone, we all have to find our own way to prayer. Some of us will be very regimented like me, some of us will not be like me at all. I think that the majority of people are not like me. I learned to be regimented in seminary.

What I tell people when I talk about my prayer life is this. Find your path. Once you have it, stay on it. If you come off of it, get back on. It is a very comforting thing after awhile, because it is something you can count on, like a spouse, or a friend. It can become addicting and as long as that addiction is AMDG+, then it is good. It is that addiction to prayer that fuels a monk and a choir nun. It can fuel you too, but you have to let it.

Prayer is like putting in golf. I can teach you how to hold a club, swing a club, and stand. I can get you to the green and get you on the green. But once you're on the green, putting is a very personal and very singular thing. Everyone is different. I'm not going to try to change how you putt, unless it is so bad that you absolutely need it. But 99% of the time, people don't need it.

I hope this gives a little insight on how to get or to remain focused.

I hope this gives a little insight.

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