Posts in rituals
The Jesus Prayer: What is it and How do you Pray It?

A few years ago, a friend of mine recommended that I pray “the Jesus prayer”. I had shared my struggle with a lot of negative self talk and she thought that the Jesus Prayer would be a helpful antidote.

To my surprise, it worked.

Before I go any further though, let me share some details about the Jesus Prayer. It’s quite powerful and could be a powerful asset in your prayer toolbox.

What is it?

It’s very simple and you can pray it anywhere, anytime. Some people use prayer beads but they are not mandatory. The prayer is this:

"Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

It’s been called “essential” to spiritual growth by a number of the Church Fathers. The Jesus Prayer is considered a means of praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Since one names Christ as Lord at the very start of the prayer, it is thought to be quite Biblical.

A Biblical Prayer

One can reference Acts 4:12, “. . . for there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved”, Luke 1:31, or Matthew 16:16-18 to name a few. The New Testament is rich with examples of people who call out to Jesus in need of healing or simply seeking answers to life’s difficult problems.

By praying the Jesus Prayer, we return to this tradition in a direct way. It humbles us and reminds us of our complete need of Him. As a prayer it is so beloved by Eastern Christians that it is said to be the most recited prayer after the Our Father and the Hail Mary.

Is it Just Another Mantra?

While some prayers are a means of reducing our stress, the Jesus Prayer is much more. It does not seek to empty the mind but to fill it with the merciful presence of Jesus.

Helpful Articles

If you’re not convinced yet that the Jesus Prayer is effective, here are some wonderful resources that I can recommend:

Helpful Videos

The Impact of the Prayer

In my life, the Jesus Prayer has been a great gift. I use it regularly as a way to focus my mind and heart. I will pray it to start the day, to calm me down in the middle of the day and even at random times while running errands. I find that it’s “pure”- I didn’t come up with it and each word is charged with a heart turned towards God. I can put myself second and God first when I pray the prayer.

Do you have to pray it out loud? Not necessarily. I typically do not. Try it out and see if it can be another component of your prayer life. If you’re like me, you might also become an advocate of the Jesus Prayer.


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7 Sincere Ways to End Your Prayers
 
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We’ve talked about easy ways to begin your prayers. (hereBut what should you do at the end of your time of prayer?

Think about it another way- you’re at dinner with someone very important. After you pay the bill, you wouldn’t walk out of the restaurant without saying anything. Rather, you would be sure to thank the other person, look him in the eye and leave things on a good note.

It’s no different with prayer.

After you’ve spent 10,20 or even 30 minutes in prayer, how you “leave things” with God is worth some thought. The following are seven ways that you could conclude your prayer:

1. With a formal prayer. This could be as simple as the Our Father or a prayer from a saint that is meaningful to you.

2. With a quote or mantra. Do you have a saying that resonates with you? Is there a line that moves your spirit?

3. With the sign of the cross. Enough said here- you can never go wrong with the sign of the cross.

4. In silence. While Mother Teresa said that at least half of our time (in prayer) should be spent in silence, there’s nothing like concluding your time with the Lord in silence.

5. By looking at an icon. You might place an icon in your prayer spot and conclude your prayer by gazing at the icon- taking a long, meaningful look at its deeper message.

6. By writing. In your journal, you might conclude your time of prayer by writing down something similar each day. I like to do this and it brings a sense of closure and a “sending off” to the day.

7. By invoking a saint. I will often conclude my prayer by asking for the prayers from Mary, St. Joseph, my Guardian Angel and St. Michael the Archangel. Who might you ask for prayers?

The key in all this is simple- be thoughtful and find what feels right for when you conclude your prayers.

 
How the Bible Can Enliven Your Prayer
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I coach my son’s 8th grade basketball team.  We had a game recently and it was evident that we were not only tired but underhydrated.  The guys looked pale and just weren’t playing up to their usual standards.  The coaches kept telling them to get a drink, to take a breath and to keep adding water to their systems.

 

It struck me- the Bible is very similar for a Christian as water is to an athlete.  Without the proper hydration, the athlete will ultimately run out of fuel and begin to slow down.  For someone who wants to be praying well, the Bible is very, very similar.  It’s an essential helpmate to an active life of prayer.

 

Let’s look at some practical reasons for reading the Bible and including it in our prayer time:

 

1. Jesus read it.  Sure, Jesus didn’t have the entire New Testament nor did he have a “pocket version” with the handy strings to mark your spot (I love those).  Still, he was not only familiar with Old Testament texts but he had memorized more than a few of them.  It was a reference for him and one that he obviously held in high regard.

2. The Saints loved the Bible. Every saint, at some point in their lives, has drawn great inspiration from the Bible.  Consider the following quotes as examples,

  • St. Jerome, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
  • St. Gregory, “The Holy Bible is like a mirror before our mind’s eye. In it we see our inner face. From the Scriptures we can learn our spiritual deformities and beauties. And there too we discover the progress we are making and how far we are from perfection.”
  • St. John of the Cross, “Seek by reading and you will find by meditating. Knock by praying, and it will be opened to you in contemplation.”

3. The Bible is a Bridge to God.  No person, no matter how holy they may be, can go it alone.  We need one another and we need a map to get to heaven.  The Bible, alongside Sacred Tradition, is our map.  It serves as a bridge to holy living.  Ask someone who is holy what they read each day and they will likely pull out their Bible.

 

With these reasons for why the Bible is so important for a Christian, how can you use it when you pray?

 

For me, it looks like this:

1. In the morning: when I have my quiet time, one of the first things I read is the Daily Mass readings.  Depending on what’s featured for that day, I’ll either look at:

  • The Old Testament reading
  • The Psalm
  • The New Testament reading

Note that I rarely look at all three and I don’t use a physical Bible. I usually go to www.usccb.org and read the Mass readings on my iPad.  While I have two master’s degrees and a doctorate, I’m just not sharp enough to contemplate three separate readings.  Rather, like a laser beam, I choose one and focus on that.  It’s ok to choose one small snippet and read it over and over again.  The temptation here will be to read it very fast, especially if you’ve read it in the past.  Slow down.  Read it again.  Ask God to tell you what it means.  Turn it over in your mind.  See how it applies to your life. 

2. In the evening: right before bed, I pick up my leather-covered Bible that I keep on my dresser and I read a few verses of one Psalm. Right now, I’m working through the Psalms very slowly.  I might take a week on the same Psalm!  When it feels like it’s time to move on to another book, I’ll do that.  I keep it simple and just try my best to end a day with a small but good dose of Scripture.  It works for me.

 

You might use the Bible in different ways during your day and that’s ok.  The key, as the saints before us have taught, is to read the Bible as often as you can and figure out the “spots” where it best fits into your busy day.  

 

I think you’ll find that, like water keeps an athlete hydrated, reading the Bible keeps the Christian praying well. 

Quotes, rituals, prayerMike StPierre
5 Steps To Praying More in 2018
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 So you want to pray more in 2018?

 

Just like those that want to exercise more or save more money in the New Year, there are a lot of us who also want to be more prayerful.  The catch, and there’s always a catch, is that it’s easier said than done.

 

A desire needs a bit more to become a reality.

 

Still, a seed of desire is a good starting point to a more prayerful “you” in 2018.  St. Therese calls prayer a “surge of the heart”- that sure sounds like desire-language to me!  If you have a desire to pray more, that’s fantastic so let’s explore it further.

 

Once you have the inclination to be more prayerful, what do you do about it?  I suggest a couple of things to get you going:

 

  1. Pick an app.  As you can see from my Productivity Awards list, I recommend either Magnificat or Give Us This Day. If you’d prefer a free option, go with Laudate.
  2. Decide on a time of day. For most of us, mornings are the best time of day to pray.  There’s just less resistance in the morning and it also feels great to start your day with some personal time with God.
  3. Decide on your location.  This isn’t a fancy step but still an important one.  Will you pray at the kitchen table or in a chapel at church?  Will you find a comfortable chair in your living room that looks out on your backyard?  Where in your life can you find a quiet spot to be with God every day at a particular time?  For me, it’s typically in a chair in my living room, listening to the birds begin their day just outside.
  4. Decide on your ritual or practice.  You know when you go to church and the service (or Mass for us Catholics!) begins the same way every single week?  Those repeated signs trigger your mind and heart into a different point of focus, i.e. “this is prayer time”.  You can do this at home by lighting a candle, making the sign of the cross or saying the same thing each time you start.  I like to begin with “O God come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me” which I’ve borrowed from the Liturgy of the Hours. Find what works for you and then use it each and every time you pray.
  5. Revisit your journal.  A journal is a great place to “ponder” things.  Writing makes you more reflective, more grateful and can improve your intimacy with God.  Just let it flow- don’t try to impress anyone or be perfect.  The point is to talk to God through your writing (or typing via an app) and “turn over” your heart a few times.

 

These are five simple tips for a more prayerful you in the New Year.  I can’t wait to hear of your success stories!

Why You Need an Evening Routine

This is a guest post by Hank Geng from Min-Max Your Life.  Hank writes about productivity and organization, helping readers overcome overwhelm and procrastination.

When was the last time you looked at your phone? Checked your email?  10 minutes ago?  Less?

In this day and age, we’re addicted to our screens, and we get barraged from every direction. So many things demand our time, and in the process of managing it all, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters to you. 

It’s incredibly helpful to make a habit of unplugging on a daily basis so you can stop this constant flow of information and have a chance to recharge. 

This works best in the context of an evening routine that prepares you for the next day, allows you to reflect on what you are grateful for, puts you in a relaxed mood, and lets you get a good night’s sleep to wake up refreshed and energized. 

There’s no one size fits all approach, but you can get started on creating your own evening routine by following this four-step simple formula: 

The Four Steps

  • Review tomorrow’s schedule and tasks to make sure you don’t have any surprises. You may want to:
  1. Plan out what you’re going to wear in the morning
  2. Set your alarm for when you need to wake up
  3. Decide how you’re getting to your first destination tomorrow
  • Reflect on today by asking yourself a few essential questions:
  1. What are you grateful for?
  2. What made this day unique?
  3. Did you learn something new? 
  • Relax by putting your screens away and starting to wind down. You could try one of the following:
  1. Read a physical book or your Kindle
  2. Yoga
  3. Meditate
  • Rest by turning off your lights, drawing the curtains, and going to sleep. 
  1. People require different amounts of sleep, but start with allotting yourself 8 hours for sleep and go from there.

By creating your own evening routine that includes these four factors, you’ll start waking up the next morning refreshed and energized, ready to face the day. 

Do you have an evening routine?

If not, try reserving an hour before your bedtime tonight to try creating your own using the framework above.

7 Benefits of a Rockstar ToDo List

The most productive people in the world use ToDo lists.  Just like the way that holy people read the Bible and great athletes spend thousands of hours in the gym, knowledge workers perfect their use of ToDo lists.  Just see how Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps prepares for each and every race.  Simply amazing and utterly routinized. 

Every day.  Habits that pay off big time.

Seriously, everyday for productive people gets filled with some version (sometimes very simple) of a ToDo list.

Whether you’re a paper lover or a gadget geek (I’m both!), your ToDo list manager probably needs a checkup as Summer approaches. The value of comprehensive ToDo list is vast. Here are 7 benefits:

  1. A ToDo list empties your head.
  2. A ToDo list lets your fill your day with important tasks.
  3. A ToDo list gives you confidence that you can get things done.
  4. A ToDo list lets you focus in short bursts of time.
  5. A ToDo list gives you permission to be fully present to those you love.
  6. A ToDo list can be short or long.
  7. A ToDo list conveys organization to those around you.

For follow up, spend some time with your ToDo list.  Get to know it once again if it's been a while  If you need to modify, change or (be honest...) find a ToDo list, that's ok.  Give yourself permission to fall in love with your ToDo list once and for all.

Rockstar status could be just around the corner...