If I am going to be completely honest with you, I am terrible at praying. I really, really am. Somehow I can’t find the mental space to sit down with God and pray. It’s not that I don’t want to, but rather that I find myself up against a mental roadblock that I can’t seem to break through. When I can’t find a way to communicate with God I do the next best thing: I talk to my grandma for advice. Years ago she told me that if you find that you cannot pray with your heart and soul to pray with your hands. Be active. So when I am really struggling to pray mentally, I pray actively.
What does it mean to pray actively? It means you need to go out into the world and do good work. Which can happen all kinds of ways. Active participation can help facilitate spiritual development. For those of us who have a difficult time growing in prayer, even talking about spiritual growth can seem somehow distant and possibly overwhelming. That’s okay. Even the saints struggled sometimes. Mental roadblocks can be overcome by doing physical activities. This is true even outside of spiritual growth: Can’t focus on a project? Go for a walk; Tired from a long night? Eat some (good) food. Or drink coffee/tea; Distracted from the never ending list of obligations we all have? Sleep. I mean it, go sleep. Often our mental struggles can be overcome by actively doing something and it is true of our spiritual lives as well.
Some solutions I would offer to those of you who struggle like me:
- Feed the hungry
Visit the sick and elderly
Knit a prayer shawl for someone in need
Volunteer with like-minded people for a cause you care about (Prolife, Sister Parishes abroad, and other social justice ministries.)
Join a club and surround yourself with people who you can identify with (Men’s club, MOMs of Grace, Sposi Novelli)
Serve in the mass as a lector or eucharistic minister
Or simply go to Adoration for an hour and be still in the presence of the Eucharist.
Whatever you need go do it. Prayer with your hands and you will find that the mind will follow. We have so many beautiful ministries at our church. If I haven’t listed one that interests you talk to Fr. Kevin--he’ll find something for you.
My challenge to all of you is this:
- If you are already the kind of person who is active in ministries of the church, invite people to join you and share your ministry with others.
- If you are not involved in a ministry, be open to the invitation of others.
Being faithful is not a static state; it is an active process. We must actively live out our faith life. Which is why when we are struggling with the mental and spiritual part of prayer we can grow by doing good things that benefit others. Often I find that doing good deeds can help put my mind in a place that can pray more intentionally. The new year is a perfect time to reevaluate your priorities and be mindful of the kind of changes you want to see in your life. Who knows, with some faith-filled acts and mindful praying you could be the next modern saint.
Daughter of God, friend, wife, mother, and OLG Parishioner