Making My Faith My Own in College
COMMENTARY: Committing to daily prayer was time well spent.
When I committed to my college four years ago, I had no commitment to daily prayer.
I would pray for difficult circumstances or when I needed clarity to make a decision. But now, after four of the hardest, most incredible and formative years of my life, I know that my newfound devotion to daily prayer and communion with Jesus is the one thing that carried me through it all.
There are many daily practices in the spiritual life that deeply impact us, such as Mass, a Rosary, the Liturgy of the Hours.
But, as I found on campus, the days I failed to sit and converse with God in personal, daily prayer were the most challenging.
During my time at Hillsdale College, I often found myself at The Grotto — an off-campus house dedicated to serving our Catholic student community through Bible studies, weekly dinners and the sacraments.
At 10 each night, I joined many other students in the tiny chapel to pray a Rosary. On Tuesdays, we packed both the chapel and living room to the brim for daily Mass with a visiting priest. And on Thursdays, the missionaries (Hillsdale grads who stay on and take care of The Grotto) hosted “Convivium,” a weekly homemade dinner paired with a speaker and exhortation each week.
Though the Grotto was a second home for me freshman year, none of this would really matter in the long run unless I attended to my personal relationship with God.
The community we formed was strong and uplifting, but it would only stay that way if I communed with God, too.
Prayer should not be an item on our to-do list. Prayer is simply time spent with Jesus, my dearest friend.
Daily prayer may be overwhelming if we feel we don’t have time and don’t know “what to do.” But prayer is not just a thing to do; it’s a place to be, and that place is in the presence of God.
My sophomore year, I would commit to wake up around 7 a.m. each day for a “holy hour” in my dorm room. Some days, it was exhausting to wake up early. If I was cramming for a midterm the night before, or when snowy days flooded the calendar in November, I didn’t want to pray in the morning.
But starting my morning in prayer shifted the course of the entire day. Rather than pray in the last few minutes of consciousness before falling asleep after a full day of classes, work and social events, I realized I needed to begin my day with the Lord.
One incredibly helpful part of my sophomore morning prayer routine was my dear roommate. She would also wake up each morning and set aside time to pray. Knowing that I had a friend keeping me accountable always pushed me to continue to pray.
Now my prayer time looks exactly the same each day. Prayer — time spent with Jesus — can look like so many different things.
There are a few habitual practices I incorporate into my prayer life, though. First, I always say “Good morning, Jesus.” I say it out loud and I write it down in my journal. This reminds me that God the Son is with me.
Next, I listen. I wait and I listen to his voice and what he wants to speak to me.
I let Jesus fill me with truth each morning. His words are far more important than anything I could say, so I let him speak first. He directs me to Scripture, gives me words or images to pray with, or just nudges me to sit in silence with him.
After that, I respond. I thank him for speaking to me! This is a relationship, remember, not just a chore I need to complete.
Practicing intentional gratitude forms a healthy, loving mindset. Not only do I thank him, I also tell him about my current daily life — my worries, my joys, my dreams and everything in between.
Jesus wants to hear what we have to say. He wants to hear us tell him what we loved about our day, what we need help with, etc. — even though he already knows, he wants to hear it from us.
Finally, it’s important to steep in Scripture, the living word of God. If I feel stuck in prayer, falling into the lie that I cannot hear God’s voice and he doesn’t want to speak to me, I always meditate on Scripture, letting the Lord speak to me through his living word.
There are dozens of ways to pray. But above any type or practice of prayer, we must make it consistent.
Consistent prayer is how I made my faith my own in college. It’s how I cultivated friendship and companionship with Jesus and how my love of God expanded.
If you’re about to begin college, or about to wrap up your time on campus, make it a priority to sit down with the Lord and converse with him daily.