Prayer: Enter Into a Deeper Dialogue With God
Find renewal this Lent.
Listening to what the Lord wants to tell us, we can find renewal in Lent.
“If we say again and again, ‘Help us grow in intimate relationship with you this Lent so that we can celebrate the Paschal Mystery with mind and heart renewed’; if we say that every day for 40 days or some version of that, it becomes natural and realigns what we’re doing,” said Jesuit Father Andy Alexander, a lecturer and collaborative ministry offices and online ministries director at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
From studying under U.S. military special-operations leaders, Kerri Bishop has learned about setting an order of importance, including in the spiritual life.
“The mission is first, then your team, then your teammate and then yourself,” said Bishop, a teacher, blogger and life coach at Strahlen Grace in upstate New York. “I think Lent is a perfect time to put that into place, too. What is our mission?”
With her Lenten goal in mind, Boston-area author of Stay Connected Journals and retreat speaker Allison Gingras said she prefers to add prayer and other practices as she goes rather than starting with a long list.
Father Alexander, who wrote Praying Lent, says desiring to grow in our relationship with the Lord is key. Prayer should be a conversation, Father Alexander added. “That’s what meditation is: to focus on what’s important to talk about,” he said. “The easiest thing to imagine is meditating on the Scriptures.”
Through the daily and Sunday Mass readings and prayers, the Church gives us a rich guide through Lent, said Father Alexander, who encouraged attending daily Mass or at least using in prayer the readings and “Collect” prayer, which concludes the opening rites of the Mass.
A family Lenten plan may involve the Mass readings and other prayers, Father Alexander said. Lenten focal points similar to an Advent wreath can include moving a crucifix to the dinner table, as well as placing in a prominent place a candle or bowl of water — symbolizing baptism — or sand, a reminder of Jesus’ journey and temptation in the desert.
Prayer unites penance and the other Lenten pillars, he said, noting that the Mass readings during the first four days of Lent instruct us on how to approach the pillars.
Lenten practices should make more space for God, Gingras said. “What’s important is giving up something that takes your time so that you can make more time for God.” She suggested giving God the first moment of the day and expanding prayer time from there.
Gingras also gives “spiritual alms” by devoting part of her prayer to interceding for others. “For me, that’s like fasting from my own needs, giving my time to others around prayer.”
Almsgiving can be the fruit of gratitude for God’s love as we grow in relationship with him through prayer, Father Alexander said.
In all we do we can follow Jesus’ command to pray without ceasing, Bishop said. “It doesn’t have to be stop and be on my knees 24/7,” she said. “It’s: Live your life as a prayer.”
Ignatian spirituality involves seeking intimacy with God even in life’s messiness, which can bring healing, Father Alexander said. “So we don’t try to be with Jesus in our head somewhere in a lofty place while the real tensions and conflicts in our life are not.”
Praying about a problem during Lent has helped Gingras find forgiveness. She suggested meditating with a crucifix on Jesus’ suffering and forgiveness.
Reflecting in silence at adoration or in an empty church about Our Lord’s betrayal is a consolation for heartbreak, Bishop added.
She encouraged Catholics to persevere in prayer during Lent. “Get up again and try tomorrow.”
There is more grace during Lent, Gingras believes, and it’s available as we seek the Lord in prayer. “We’re all in this together, in this extra time of renewal and really looking at ourselves through the lens of what Jesus did for us, his passion,” she said.
“If he’s willing to die for us, then certainly I must be able to die to some of my own desires.”
Hallow.com and its app offer resources for audio-guided contemplative prayer.
Finding God Through Meditation by Dan Burke is available at EWTNRC.com or (800) 854-6316.
- susan klemond
- pillars of lent