Prayer should be the breath of your soul. Conscious of your human weakness, and trusting in God’s power, goodness, and fidelity, you should constantly turn to Him in prayer. Pray in the morning when you arise, offering the day to Him and asking His blessing. Turn to Him often during the course of the day with short but fervent prayers, such as these:
Jesus, my God,
I love You above all things!
My Jesus, mercy!
Say your prayers before and after meals with reverence and gratitude, and not in a slovenly manner. Recite the rosary daily to obtain the help of the Mother of God. And, when evening comes, kneel down and ask God’s pardon for the faults of the day, thank Him for His benefits, and beg for the grace to serve Him better tomorrow.
Pray especially in time of temptation. For it is only by the grace of God, given in response to prayer, that you can long resist the assaults of the enemies of your soul: the world, the flesh, and the Devil. If, however, you continue to pray, you can be certain that you will not fall into sin.
Every day of your life, pray for the gift of final perseverance, that the decisive moment of death may find you with the love and the grace of God in your heart. Ask for this crowning grace through the intercession of the Mother of God.
Outside these official exercises of piety, God is just as lovable, just as easy to talk to, and just as near. To know that is to understand the difference between praying and possessing the spirit of prayer, between having a kind of piety and possessing an inward life. You cannot always be in the act of praying, but you should always be in a state of prayer. This is what Jesus meant when He told people “that they must always pray and not lose heart.”
St. Teresa wrote, “We must withdraw in spirit far from all external things and come inwardly nearer to God; even in our daily occupations we must retire within ourselves, were it only for a moment — in short, we should gradually accustom ourselves to converse quietly with Him.”
The spirit of prayer — or habitual prayer — may be described as a lasting and sympathetic awareness of God’s presence. Your soul dwells in an atmosphere of recollectedness, sensing God’s presence as you might sense the presence of another who is very ill while you go about your duties. Whether you call it sensing the presence of God, or silent prayer, it is one of God’s greatest gifts to your soul.
Endeavor to acquire the spirit of prayer, which is composed of three elements:
- A great esteem for prayer, a vivid realization of the sublimity and excellence of prayer in itself: prayer is the best and noblest activity of which you are capable, because it is conversation with God.
- The conviction of the absolute need for prayer for your spiritual life, your spiritual progress, and your soul’s very salvation: prayer is an indispensable and unique means of grace and perfection.
- Absolute confidence in the power of prayer: with prayer, you can do all things, because God has promised you all things. This confidence consists in a firm conviction that there is nothing you cannot accomplish and obtain by good and persevering prayer. Of course, the prayer must be in conformity with the claims of reason and conscience and subject to the will of God, who is all-good and all-knowing.
The spirit of prayer is one of the most precious graces in the spiritual life — indeed, the chief of all graces, the beginning and fulfillment of all good. So long as it lives within you, you will be grounded and rooted in God and in all that is good, and all within you can be restored and turned to good. Without it, your whole spiritual life is unreliable.
A spirit of prayer must pervade and sanctify everything you do. Even in the most absorbing occupations, try to preserve this spirit. You will do so if you fulfill these two conditions: that you habitually live the life of prayer; and that you do not permit your activity to do away with the life of prayer. This may happen if you withdraw your activity from the influence of our Lord.
The more your heart is united to our Lord in prayer, the more it shares in the dominating qualities of the divine and human Heart of the Redeemer. Your life of prayer will radiate faith, hope, charity, humility, prudence, self-sacrifice, firmness and gentleness — and all these virtues will influence every action of your life. Thus the spirit of prayer will counteract the obstacles to prayer: pride, selfishness, and sin. The spirit of prayer will necessarily draw down the blessing of God upon your work. That blessing will influence your neighbor, and thus God will be glorified through your prayerful life. Without a life of prayer, you accomplish little more than nothing, for it is altogether certain that no good work can be carried on without the grace of God.
Learn how to develop a spirit of prayer
If you really want to make Jesus the life of all your works, make definite resolutions for intensifying your interior life and act on the following principles:
- Look at life as it really is, remembering that this world will pass away, while the next is eternal and that your greatest duty is to give glory to God and to save your soul.
- Love God above all things and find delight in Him alone, and for His sake love your neighbor and all God’s creatures.
- See the hands of God’s Providence in all that happens, and, with confidence, abandon yourself to His loving guidance.
- Love the Blessed Virgin Mary sincerely as your Mother and model. Pray the rosary daily.
- Hate sin, even venial sin, as the world’s greatest evil, and, thus, avoid every occasion that will lead you into it. If you should fall through human weakness, be sincerely sorry and penitent, and return to an even more intimate friendship with God through a good confession. Receive the Sacrament of Penance regularly.
- Shun the spirit of the world, despise its interests and opinions, and never conform to its ways.
- Regard Holy Mass, Holy Communion, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical functions as the most fruitful sources of your interior life, and, if you can, go to Mass and receive Communion daily.
- Perform your work for the love of God, rather than through mere natural energy and self-love.
- Devote a definite time each day to mental and vocal prayer. Do not have confidence only in your own efforts, but truly depend on God, for God is the principal agent; you are only His instrument. Therefore, work hard, as if everything depended on you; but pray harder, knowing that everything really depends upon God.
- Do not remain engaged for too long in excessive work that would leave your soul in a state of estrangement from God or render it difficult for you to raise your thoughts to God occasionally.
- Try to remain recollected and under the influence of God’s grace during your work, even if it is only by a short, yet sure, directing of your mind to Him, a simple loving movement of your heart toward Him, or by using some brief, spontaneous prayer. Be firmly convinced that you can do nothing more important for your own soul and those of others — for God’s glory and for the good of the Church — than to cultivate your interior life through the sacraments, prayer, and good works, remembering the Savior’s words: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me.”
Through prayer, you will find God
The example of Christ at Nazareth and during His public life emphasizes the importance of the spirit of prayer. It is in direct contrast to modern rush and activity that allows no time for the soul to rest in God. Christ’s standards are very different from those of the world. The world would consider His thirty years of hidden life in Nazareth a waste of time.
The work of the sanctification of an individual soul is of more importance in the eyes of God than the material welfare of the nation. It is not so much what you do that matters as why you do it. It is not so much what you do as what you become that is of value in God’s eyes. His plan for your soul is that it become transformed interiorly. And all your soul’s sanctification comes from contact with Christ; and contact with Christ is made by prayer. Prayer is the life of true achievement, the instrument best fitted to do God’s work in your soul.
If you are faithful in speaking with God and in listening to what the Holy Spirit brings to your mind, your soul will constantly express itself in acts of faith, hope, love, confidence, repentance, and submission to the will of God. It will move in an atmosphere conducive to maintaining union with God. Prayer will become the breath, the life of your soul. Eventually prayer will develop into a state, and your soul will be able to find God at will, even in the midst of many occupations. The moments in the day that you consecrate exclusively to the formal exercise of prayer will be only the intensifying of this state in which your soul remains habitually but gently united to God, speaking to Him interiorly and listening to His voice.
If you seek God with your whole heart because you love Him with your whole heart, you will never seek in vain. For, more lovingly than you can realize, God is seeking you. You must remove the obstacles that you have put in the way of God’s finding your soul. The more you find God, through prayer, so much the more fervently will you seek Him. You will be living in the true spirit of prayer. You will find God in your joys and in your sorrows; you will see Him in your dearest friends as well as in your enemies. If you love God, you will find Him in every circumstance of life, because your heart is in Heaven. Yours will be a peace and joy that no man can take from you! And this is the glorious aim of prayer in your life — the possession of God!
Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Fr. Lovasik’s The Basic Book of Catholic Prayer, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.