Every new year is a chance for new beginnings. We start each year with renewed resolve to improve our health, strengthen our relationships, and grow in prayer.
As 2019 begins, examine and reflect on your personal prayer life: How have you experienced the graces of prayer in your life? How have you grown in the past year? What areas need more attention or commitment? Have your prayer habits become too routine, lacking in mindfulness? How can you better plan your time to keep prayer a priority?
With an honest and humble view of the strengths and weaknesses of your current prayer life, consider these simple ways to continue growing in prayer this year.
Setting consistent prayer routines and habits helps us keep conversation with God at the center of our everyday lives. Yet sometimes, the repetition of our routines can put us in autopilot mode — and we start to lose the mindfulness needed to fully enter into dialogue with God. It can become just another thing on our to-do list.
If you start to recognize this downside of routines in your own life, think of ways to refresh your time in prayer. This doesn’t mean completely abandoning your favorite prayers or meditations. Simply shifting the times of your routines, or adding a new prayer or ritual can help bring back your mindfulness.
It’s often easier to stick to something that requires discipline if someone else is holding us accountable. When we begin to make excuses or become forgetful, a close friend, family member, or spiritual director can help us stay on track. If you have difficulty maintaining your spiritual goals, seek out an accountability partner.
Together, you can discuss your successes and struggles, and set realistic goals to deepen your prayer life. Check in with your accountability prayer partner on a regular basis — by phone, text, email, or in-person — to review your progress and revisit your plans. It can be mutually beneficial relationship, as you contribute to their spiritual growth as well.
As you think ahead to your travel plans for the year, include a pilgrimage to a destination with spiritual significance. It doesn’t have to be an international location, it could be a neighboring city with a site where conversions or miracles took place, saints lived or rest, or relics are held. A pilgrimage immerses you in prayerful discovery and invites new graces.
Similarly, attending a retreat is a wonderful way to spend time devoted to prayer, in dialogue with God, and participating in the sacraments. Whether it’s a day, weekend, or weeklong retreat, you will inevitably come away with a greater sense of peace, centered on Christ. Away from your daily life and distractions, you can focus solely on prayer.
Who better to turn to for spiritual guidance than the saints? Each saint has a unique spirituality and life of prayer that can inspire our own. Make an effort to learn about a saint’s life and faith. There are countless firsthand and biographical accounts of the saints to reference and read. If a particular saint’s spirituality speaks to you, take it up or adapt it.
Whatever challenges or blessings lie ahead for you this year, a strong prayer life will keep you grounded in faith and thankful to God throughout it all. As Saint Faustina said:
“A soul arms itself by prayer for all kinds of combat. In whatever state the soul may be, it ought to pray. A soul which is pure and beautiful must pray, or else it will lose its beauty; a soul which is striving after this purity must pray, or else it will never attain it; a soul which is newly converted must pray, or else it will fall again; a sinful soul, plunged insins, must pray so that it might rise again. There is no soul which is not bound to pray, for every single grace comes to the soul through prayer.”
Every person, and every soul, must pray to remain in grace and overcome temptations.
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Originally published in USA Today.