A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for Aleteia encouraging people to Jumpstart Your Prayerlife and cited several small ways to bring prayerful practices into one’s life:
The kiss of God is attainable, and wholly by grace; our own effort need consist in very little more than the wanting to do the right thing, or admitting to the simple desire to pray. “I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you,” wrote Thomas Merton. If you can accept that true premise, then you can jump-start your prayer life in very simple ways.
And by simple, I mean simple. As in, mindfully make the Sign of the Cross:
1) Make the Sign of the Cross
When I was a little girl, I thought of the Sign of the Cross as a kind of “key” with which I could open and close my connection to God—a key to a portal, so to speak. My grandmother taught me to make the Sign of Cross whenever I heard a siren or saw an ambulance or any sort of emergency vehicle, and in my imagination that small act became a kind of delivery service: crossing myself became the means by which I pushed the need before my eyes (or ears) into that God-portal—imagine the intentions of strangers shoved into a pneumatic tube of prayer and sent off to heaven! I am older, now, but I still make the Sign of the Cross at those times. And when a name or need pops into my head, as I am working. Or when my own anxiety threatens to own me. I simply recognize what is before me: an ambulance, a need, a fear, an angry thought, and I cross myself and release it all into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is a first and fast prayer and a good place to start.
Doable, right? Now Deacon Greg Kandra has fleshed out that whole theme in a great new book which I am highly recommend. The Busy Person’s Guide to Prayer, a brief but inviting book full of practical advice for our crowded and hectic days times and — because it’s Kandra — it’s also a delightful read that covers everything from grace before meals to embracing silence and then gives examples of how to do it:
When all else fails, often the simplest and most straightforward prayer, whispered from the heart whenever you have a spare moment, can work wonders: “Dear God, give me hope.” “Good God, help me find the words.” “Father, be with me.” A word to Mary can’t hurt either: she can never ignore a plea from one of her children. “Mother Mary, pray for me” is often enough to still an anxious heart and afford a moment of peace.
Use free moments to offer a simple word of praise, gratitude, or hope to the one who makes all things possible. It will keep you connected to what really matters — and the Father who understands what we truly need.
I’d call that what St. Benedict of Nursia describes in his Holy Rule: advice that prescribes “nothing harsh or burdensome.”
Practical, sensible, do-able. The Busy Person’s Guide to Prayer might be precisely what many of us need to reactivate our spiritual engines, especially in this time of Lent.