“Accustom yourself to pray this way and, God grant, soon you will nurture true prayer in yourself. Then there will be no need for rules. Labour, or nothing will come of you. If there is no success in prayer, then there will be no success in anything. It is the root of everything.”

– St Theophan the Recluse

prayer picWhen I was working in youth ministry, we used to suggest to our young people that a good  question to ask other young Christians is “how is your prayer life?”

Asking that question is a good reminder of the importance of prayer, way of encouraging someone in their prayer life, and also, if they were interested, way to hold each other accountable to pray by frequently asking each other.

Having a prayer life can be a tough thing. As St Theophan said in the quote above, it is a labour. You have to work at it.

It is so easy to come up with excuses not to pray. Its a spiritual battle, so of course things are going to get in the way.

I’m often reminded that I need to improve my prayer life when I get an epiphany of how I should’ve done something better and wonder if that epiphany would’ve hit me earlier with better prayer. Or when something big happens and I need to “catch up” with God and realise how I wasn’t as prepared or open as I needed to be by not being as in touch with Christ as I could have been.

I once heard a great homily of a priest when I was living in Sydney, Australia. He talked about having the ability to see and use the graces that God gives you in each moment of each day. How often are we blind to the opportunities we are given?

Prayer is a labour that is worth it. A labour that I know if I start my day with it, or ensure God gets a priority of some of my time during the day, that things will flow better. Even if that time is short or rushed at times. God makes up the difference. I will see better the graces that God is giving me that day.

Whether as a parent to small children that grace is a quiet moment of children playing to give me a moment of reflection and talking to God. Or encouragement from a stranger when out and about. Or a person I wouldn’t have noticed that I can do a small act of kindness for…

Without Christ and prayer the Christian life is meaningless. It is hard. It is empty.

To start or restart or “heat up” a lukewarm prayer life we need rules, dedication and encouragement. Prayer can seem pointless or empty at times. It comes with ups and downs, moments of pain and moments of joy. Just like everyday life. But thats what life is. Our journey with Christ. It can lead you where you least expect.

Prayer journals, a buddy to ask ‘the question’, Ignatian spiritual exercises, the rosary, the Devine Mercy chaplet, pray-as-you-go and a set time and date with Jesus can be all great places to start.

So how is your prayer life?