Make 2014 A Great Year With Prayer

A grave marker with a woman prayingBy many accounts, the world was pretty depressed in 2013. Wars, the still “recovering” economy, government spying, natural disasters, and more have created a general attitude of “blah” for many in the world.

I am not dismissing the negative impact the world around us can have. Despite years of economic and technological progress, human problems still remain. Nonetheless, I think as Christians we are called to not lose hope and remember our ultimate goal is to become more like Christ and develop a closeness to God.

I am not advocating a retreat from modern life. I am saying that the best relief from the troubles of the modern world is to spend time in prayer (including the sacraments).

Prayer is a deep connection to God that is available anytime, anywhere. When I was little at a “Vacation Bible School” event, the leader told us children something that impacted me spiritually more than just about anything I heard as a child. She told us that we could tell God anything. I remember feeling liberated to know that. The same is true as an adult.

I would add to this that we can experience the presence of God anytime as well, anytime we enter into prayer (whether it be vocal, meditative, or contemplative). It is a delight indeed to be able to experience the presence of our Lord “at will,” if we take advantage of it.

The Summer Rush

summer meadow paintingSummer is often portrayed as a time of rest and relaxation. I guess those people have never gone on vacation or tried to plan relaxation! However, summer is also considered down time in many churches.

Most parishes don’t have the choir during summer and attendance is often down. While social events can be well-attended, religious oriented ones aren’t. In addition, it’s likely that many of us take a summer break from devotions and prayer during summer too. The rest and relaxation time is just too much. Call it the summer rush.

However, summer doesn’t have to be a down time for your faith. There are ways to keep up with your spirituality during the summer months. I’m going to offer a few tips.

First, start a new discipline for the summer. This will make sure that you have something fresh to pursue. Maybe it can be a prayer walk in nature, a few minutes before the Blessed Sacrament, or a decade of the rosary. Trying something new just might give you more enthusiasm for prayer during the summer.

Resist the urge to let vacation be a break from your faith. If you go on vacation, try to attend a service and make sure to emphasize family prayer. It could actually be fun. Praying together on the beach or attending a mass at a new parish in the mountains could be a breath of fresh air that everyone’s faith needs.

Finally, bring God into the midst of the stress. Take a few minutes a day just for you to be mindful of your situation and pray. It could be five minutes on your porch in the morning or silent prayer while you sunbathe at the swimming pool. Be more centered and spend time with God.

Don’t let the summer rush and the busy months get you stressed out. Find a way to keep your spirituality alive in the midst of the summer months.

The Best Laid Plans

pentecost holy spirit iconThere are many ways to get from point A to point B and there may even be a better or personally preferred route. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only way.

Last night  was driving to visit my brother and encountered a detour. I was aggravated at first. It only ended up adding a few minutes to my trip. But, the new road actually took me by some breathtaking scenery. I was able to go to the top of a hill that allowed me to see the previous route from a distance, in a new perspective.

Basically, this relates to spirituality in a couple of ways. First, it shows how we can do something everyday and still find new meaning when we step back and take a different perspective. What becomes routine can easily become more meaningful and exciting if we simply step back a little and really examine it.

However, the most important point is that sometimes there are many ways to get from point A to point B. Our best laid plans may not always be the right ones in eyes of God. He has the best in mind and sometimes our chosen roads and paths might not always be his.

Not only might he have a different path in mind, but that path likely has its own share of beauty, and most importantly, purpose. God’s plans aren’t always completely in line with our own. Perhaps he takes us a certain path because we are needed to influence and touch the broadest number of people. Or maybe we’ll learn some important lessons along the way.

So, be open to the path of the Holy Spirit in guiding us to what God has in store for us. The Spirit might not take us the most direct or even our preferred route. But, he has the best way of getting us there in line with the perfect plan of God. The best laid plans of people aren’t always what God wants.

God Doesn’t Want You Miserable

Image of Jesus on the crossSometimes Christianity gets a bad reputation as being depressing and stifling. Of course, this is odd when we look at the Scriptures, which show our founder as a fulfilled man who was resurrected from the dead. You don’t get much more joyful than conquering death!

However, Christianity sometimes comes across as simply being about suffering and rules. Granted, Jesus suffered and we can share in that. Also, Christianity definitely has rules.

But, our attitude towards both of those go a long way in determining our general mindset. Sometimes people who are naturally inclined towards depression or anxiety overly focus on the suffering and rules to the exclusion of the other aspects of the Christian Faith.

For example, yes, we are called to share in the suffering of Christ and the world. But, remember the suffering of Christ is a transforming suffering. In other words, our suffering and sharing in the suffering of others has the goal in mind of creating meaning and joy within suffering. Remember, the suffering of Jesus led to our redemption and his resurrection.

So, the point of suffering with Christ isn’t meant to make us miserable. It’s actually meant to make us much happier and closer to God. That, of course, is a joyful thing!

Also, while the rules within the Christian Faith are genuine, they’re actually meant to make our lives better and more meaningful. Our main focus should be the effect of the rules: a more godly life and a closer relationship with God.

Yet, some of us are so “rule oriented” or were raised that way, that all we can focus on is meticulously following a set of rules. This isn’t healthy or what God intends for us. God wants us to follow him and have a genuine relationship with us. The rules help us achieve that relationship. They’re not the end in and of themselves.

Some people simply just need reminded that God doesn’t want them miserable. In fact, God wants us the opposite. He wants us happy and joyful, no matter the circumstances. We can do this because he sent his son who died and rose to free us from the bonds of sin. That is very joyful needs indeed!

Creating A Good Day

summer landscapeIf there’s one thing the world needs more of it’s joyful and faithful people. Yet, how often do we provide that kind of witness to the rest of the world? Sadly, it’s considered unusual when a person lives his or her Christian faith consistently in places like work and social activities. However, it shouldn’t be!

Sometimes, I think we set ourselves up to fail. We wake up in a bad mood, rush through the morning, curse our luck, and trudge through a job we either can’t stand or feel neutral about. Still, no matter our calling, we can share our faith through our deeds. And, we can find meaning in our lives, no matter how mundane. Remember Brother Lawrence? He lived his faith by washing the dishes!

Here are a few ways you can great a good day (and one that is joyful and faithful)

Begin and Continue With Prayer

Morning and Evening Prayer are the most popular types of prayer (and before food). And, the importance of starting and ending the day with prayer can’t be understated (as well as blessing our meals). But, it’s also important to continue in prayer throughout the entire day, especially if that day is a bad one. Pray for patience, love, and especially for those in your life who annoy you.

Make Time For Corporate Worship

If you can steal time for a morning or noon mass, then go for it. Be nourished by Christ through worship. If you don’t have time in your work schedule, then gather your family together for prayer in the evening.

While any type of prayer is valuable, gathering with other human beings is not only spiritually edifying, but also emotionally satisfying. Make an effort to add some type of corporate worship to your schedule everyday, not just on Sundays.

Immerse Yourself In Nature

St. Francis and other holy ones throughout church history have recognized the value of finding God while immersed in nature. Being outdoors is calming and conducive to prayer. Take a hike, walk at a bike path, take up kayaking. Find a way to get outdoors and be present with God in his creation. You’d be amazed how it will help you be more balanced, faithful, and joyful. Although you have to bundle up, being outside in the winter can be especially calming, quiet, and meditative.

God bless you on your Christian journey. Hopefully you can create a joyful, faithful, and good day each day of the year.