How to Develop a Daily Prayer Routine
“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” —St. John Damascene
Catholics are required to pray according to their station in life. A Cistercian monk can’t be out washing lepers all day. But a Catholic fireman can pause three times a day to pray the Angelus. A Catholic policeman can ask St. Michael the Archangel ― the patron of police officers ― for protection that day. A Catholic baker might have the time to pray the Rosary while waiting for his bread to rise. A Catholic mom might want to have a little sit-down with her kids’ guardian angels and explain in detail what she would like of them.
Here are a few suggestions, drawn from my own experience, to help develop your own daily prayer routine:
- Religious reading, when you have a chance to pick up a book.
- Consider the old tried-and-true custom of keeping a crucifix and/or an icon or a statue in each room. It’s a reminder to avoid getting caught up in the affairs of this world and, instead, concentrating on what’s truly important. I often catch my guests given pause in front of one of my icons or crucifix in my house. What goes on in their minds as they contemplate these sacramentals is unclear. Perhaps it’s exactly what they needed just at that moment.
- Saying “God bless you” at someone sneezing instead of some meaningless and automatic phrase
- Grace at meals and even for snacks... even in a restaurant. I don’t mind giving the folks a show with their meals.
- I bow as I pass a church. I also bow at Jesus’ Name being mentioned.
- As a professional writer, I pray before writing anything. An older gentleman told me of an ancient Catholic practice of people composing a letter and first making a cross at the top center of paper to make sure that they remained civil and Christian at least for the duration of writing that letter. As I use a paperless office, it was actually easy to include a “plus sign” in my default header on my standard Word document template.
- Those Catholics fortunate to belong to a confraternity or secular institution such as the Third Order Dominicans or Secular Franciscans are committed to a lot of prayer time. I almost didn’t join the Franciscans because I was afraid I couldn’t commit to the community’s pretty extensive prayer requirements. ed, as a Franciscan, I am vowed to praying the Liturgy of the Hours (i.e., Morning Prayer/Lauds and Evening Prayer/Vespers… at minimum. I have always enjoyed and appreciated Compline/Night Prayer so I include that into my daily routine along with the rest.
- At 3:00 p.m. every day, the hour at which Christ died, if I don’t have time for the Divine Mercy Chaplet, I pray a prayer of my own creation: “I recognize Your sacrifice and my debt to You, Lord Jesus Christ, for which I am eternally grateful.”
- I’ve prayed the Franciscan Crown Rosary daily ever since I become a Franciscan. It’s a seven-decade Rosary as opposed to the standard, five-decade Dominican Rosary. The advantage to the Franciscan Crown Rosary is that there is a plenary indulgence attached to it and you don’t have to have it in one’s hands in order to prayer it.
- Practice and promote the virtues daily. Ask your guardian angel to give you a hand. After all, he has to earn his keep somehow.
- The Angelus is a time for Christians to pause and say three Hail Marys three times every day to bring to mind Christ’s Incarnation. The prayer is short, restful and poignant.
- I adopted an Opus Dei custom of saying three Hail Marys just before sleeping. Though Opus Dei members aren’t canonically required to commit themselves to the Divine Office, they will still say these prayers before sleep. It’s a nice way to frame the day. The Angelus reminds Christians to pray at 6 a.m. (or when you wake up), noon and against at 6 p.m.
- St. Thérèse of Lisieux promoted the practice of praying the Rosary on a sleepless night. She counted those times when she fell asleep while praying the Rosary as great blessings.
- I ask the saints of the day to pray for me, my family, friends and for the world
- Mass on Sunday. Confession on Friday or Saturday. Just to keep me on the straight and narrow for the narrow path leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14).
- I avoid meat on Fridays as has been the custom in my family for generations. Give up meat or a fancy meal for your sins or the sins of others or for the welfare and salvation of others.
- I teach RCIA in my parish, which I count as the highlight of my week. If you want to learn more about our Faith, teach those who are hungry to learn about it.
- When given the opportunity, I would stop by an open church just to check in with Jesus and the saints. The words “spiritually refreshed” is overused these days but the truth is, you feel lighter when you share your burdens with the God Who Makes Our Yokes Lighter (Matthew 11:30).
- Collect clothing or food for those in need.
- A pilgrimage can be defined as going to any Catholic church other than your own parish so there’s always that opportunity for mini-pilgrimage to nearby parish.
- Caroling and Nativity-scene hopping
- Retreat every now and again. Once a year is a good target.