We are a few weeks into Lent now, so I wanted to share a post reflecting on a few of my favorite ways to pray. I picked seven favorites so if you want you can try a new one out each day of the week!
*Singing: Music has a way of stirring my soul. Sometimes I find deeply prayerful moments in music that doesn’t even have words, but there’s something about singing along to a traditional hymn that just transcends my mood, my distractions, my limited perspective… I love the quote “singing is praying twice” and I’m a firm believer that singing in mass shouldn’t be a talent competition- God loves the voice He gave you, even if it isn’t pitch perfect or you skip to the wrong verse sometimes because you’re trying to wrangle kids to sing so try singing loud and proud next church service and see it as a prayer! (Speaking of wrangling kids- the mass music each week was the first way we got our son to start engaging with the mass more and helped him focus for at least those parts of service. Music is kind of like magic! Some of my favorite hymns I go back to over and over are
*Write the Word: I have written before about how much I love using my Write the Word journals and what a difference it makes in my day when I set aside some “Coffee and Jesus time” with them. I keep one for myself and personal reflections as well as one for each of my kids filled with prayers for them that relate to the scripture I’ve written out. I highly recommend them as a tool for your prayer life, and if you have grade school children you can even get them involved with the Write the Word Kids edition!
*Ignatian Contemplation: This is a Jesuit form of prayer that fits perfectly with my theatre background, because it takes the text of the Bible and invites you to use your imagination and place yourself in the Bible stories. It’s funny some of the details I start to find in the passages when I use this kind of prayer. This method of prayer also allows me to pray with my heart instead of getting stuck in my head. For a great example on how to use this method, you can check out this video by Fr. James Martin.
*The Rosary/memorized prayers: It doesn’t get more traditional Catholic than the rosary, so you knew this had to be coming, right? I can’t tell you how important the rosary has been in my prayer life, especially during periods of high stress or when my anxiety struggle was at its peak. The repetition, the physical beads to hold on to, and the words of the prayers themselves are all so powerful, and when combined they truly change my mental state from the time I start to the time I end. With two kids, I sometimes struggle to get a whole rosary in with time to meditate on the mysteries, but I can always find moments to offer up a Hail Mary, and Our Father, or a Glory Be. There’s also something so comforting about knowing these prayers are the same… so you can share them with people speaking their own languages (or you can all speak them in latin if you want to go old school), that you can say them when you feel too nervous or emotional to pray extemporaneously, they make me feel connected to centuries of believers.
*5 Finger Prayer: This prayer is so sweet and simple. I remember learning it when I was growing up and it’s something I still use sometimes- you start with your thumb, it’s the finger closest to you so it represents praying for those closest to you- your loved ones, family, friends… then move to your pointer finger and pray for those who instruct you and point the way- the teachers, the doctors who tell us how we can take care of our bodies, mentors, etc. The middle finger is the tallest so it represents those in leadership positions- government leaders, church leaders, etc. Then the ring finger is the weakest finger so we pray for those who are weak or sick or are particularly vulnerable. The pinkie finger is representative of yourself and it should be done last and with humility- because hopefully after you’ve prayer for all those other things, you have a little perspective on your own problems!
*The Examen: This is another Jesuit tradition which is meant to be done at the end of the day. It is something we try to do with our son now that he is old enough to reflect on his day. It includes giving thanks and offering prayers of gratitude, looking back at the highs and lows of the day and where God was present in those, and then facing where we could have done better with our days- our shortcomings and sins and places of growth that we can work on tomorrow. It ends with hope about what the next day will bring. This kind of contemplative prayer is really helpful for me. If you want to read more about sharing it with your kids, I highly recommend this blog post!
*Prayer walks/hikes: It is the perfect time of year to get out into God’s creation and pray outside- on a walk, run or hike. There’s something about unplugging and getting away from the noise and distraction and taking time to be grateful for the beauty of the natural world that makes me feel much stronger spiritually. This is usually when I do my most extemporaneous kind of praying, when I make my prayer the most like an intimate conversation with a sweet friend. I love this time of year because there are the most stunning views and perfect weather around where I live to provide lots of invitation into prayer, perspective, and thanksgiving.
Those are just some of my favorites that I come back to again and again. I hope those of you who observe Lent are having a fruitful season. Do you have a favorite way to pray? Have you thought about why it is your favorite? Was it listed here or would you like to share an alternative? I’d love to hear about it!