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With Ash Wednesday right around the corner, many of us are already pondering what Lenten resolutions we’ll choose or what resolutions we’ll suggest to our students. No resolution can succeed without prayer, however, so here’s six ways to improve your prayer life this Lent.
1. Make a daily prayer date with God. Best friends talk every day, so use the days of Lent to renew and deepen your friendship with God. If you don’t pray every day, pick a specific time and commit to spending just five minutes telling God what’s in your heart. If you already have a habit of daily prayer, add five more minutes to your regular time. For example, if you normally pray ten minutes a day, make it fifteen minutes a day for Lent. Scheduling prayer for the same time every day will help you keep your commitment. You wouldn’t break a standing date with your husband, or your mom, or your best friend, unless you absolutely had to. So try to make and keep that daily prayer date with God.
2. Add a rosary to your day. St. Louis de Montfort said that praying the rosary was like giving a bouquet of roses to the Blessed Virgin Mary. So, make your mother happy this Lent. Saying an entire set of mysteries takes 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how fast you recite the prayers. If that’s too much time, just say the fifth Sorrowful Mystery — one Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, and one Glory Be while meditating on Our Lord’s crucifixion. Say it with your spouse and your kids, and include your whole family in this beautiful tradition of prayer.
3. Make a morning offering. Offer your entire day to God, and he will bless you for it. First thing in the morning, connect with him and ask for his support and consolation throughout the day. You can recite this exquisite formal prayer, penned by St. Ignatius of Loyola: Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more. But you can also go a simpler route and create your own morning offering. Our family likes to say, “God please help me to do what you want today.” It takes just a few moments and can bring so much peace to your day.
4. Ask for God’s help more than usual. Sometimes when we feel stressed or overwhelmed, we forget to call on God’s strength. Mini-crises hit us more than once a day, on average, and they give us ample opportunity to request divine assistance. Even if your schedule is too harried to carve out specific times for prayer, you can choose a one-sentence prayer (also called an aspiration) to reach out to God throughout the day. Many people use the Jesus prayer, which is “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.” Other possibilities are “God, make haste to help me” or “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
5. Keep a prayer journal. If you decide to make Lenten resolutions, it’s a good idea to keep track of how well you’re doing. Writing down your success (or your failure!) is a great way to ensure accountability. So at the end of the day, you can note down in a journal whether you kept your resolutions that day or not. It will give you extra impetus to stay on track through the whole 40 days of the season.
6. Go to weekly confession. The Church encourages us to go to confession especially during Lent. Many people go at least once, but you don’t have to stop there. Going to weekly confession during Lent will bring you an avalanche of graces. Telling the priest about your progress with your Lenten resolutions will enhance your ability to persevere. Take the whole family with you on Saturday afternoons, and everyone can benefit from this powerful sacrament.
May God bless you during this holy season of Lent! And if you have other ideas for improving prayer life during Lent, please let us know in the comments!
Copyr. Karee Santos, 2014. Image courtesy of Pixabay.
We were sitting in the church pews with no lights on. It was early evening in late January, and dark was coming quickly.
In the front, on the step leading up to the altar, there was a candle burning in front of a mirror.
Our First Communicants were gathered on the floor in front. They weren’t looking too nervous, considering that they were moments from their First Reconciliation.
“See the candle burning brightly?”
The kids nodded. And, in some cases, they leaned forward or jumped a little to show their enthusiasm.
“That candle is our soul, with Jesus making it burn. When we’re baptized, the candle is lit.”
It made me pause, that image of the baptismal candle. I remembered my own daughter’s baptism, holding the candle as I balanced her body in my arms.
“But sin is so easy sometimes.” Here the leader held up a glass mason jar. She started lowering it gently over the candle.
“It doesn’t seem to be making a big difference. See how the candle is still burning?”
And it was. The kids could see it and so could I. What’s the big deal about sin anyway?
“But we keep doing it. We keep stepping away from God. We slowly give in to sin again and again, in small ways, ways that seem invisible and unimportant.”
The candle was almost covered by the jar but still going. It was starting to flicker a bit, and as she ended her sentence, setting the jar down on top, it dimmed quite a bit.
There was, of course, a budding scientist in the crowd. “There’s no oxygen!” he announced.
“That’s what sin does! It takes away our soul’s oxygen!” She pulled the jar off just before the flame went completely out. “And that’s what Reconciliation does! It lets the flame glow strongly and brightly!”
There was a stampede of kids to the confessional, and it made me want to go, too. I used the same lesson a few days later with my fifth-grade class, with the lights out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a way for them to go to confession, though I did find out later that at least one of them did go to confession.
What object lessons do you use to teach about confession?