This blog is part of the Alumni Week 2021 Collection!
(Yes, the title has been changed. Read on to find out why).
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him bears much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
You’ve heard this a thousand times, in your time on NET and probably afterwards – prayer is vital to our spiritual health; we can’t give what we don’t have; how can you have a relationship with someone you don’t talk to, etc., etc. All of those statements are true and you know that… but let’s be honest here. Keeping a consistent prayer life is so much easier said than done.
This blog was originally meant to be a collection of suggestions from YOU, our alumni, on some of your favourite ways to pray that are different from what you learned on NET. However, in gathering your suggestions, it became clear that perhaps you don’t need yet another list of ways you can pray. You already know those things. Instead, here are the top 5 lessons learned about prayer after NET, as submitted by you on the Official NET Canada Alumni Facebook Group and last year’s Alumni Survey.
- Prayer is about your relationship with God, not the things you do during prayer time. There’s a fine distinction between doing things in prayer and just being with God. When we learn how to pray, it can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling like “praying well” is doing A, B and C and “getting something out of it”. If you find this struggle preventing you from wanting to pray, be at peace. Relax. God is not expecting you to check off some to-do list. He wants you to show up and be present, and He’ll meet you there.
- Know yourself. Know your needs. Plan accordingly. Do you know that you pray best when you first wake up? Or before you go to bed? Do you need a cup of coffee to motivate you to pray? Do you pray best in a chapel? Is your commute the only time you have alone to pray? Is there a specific type of prayer that helps you enter into your time with God? Do you need someone to keep you accountable and ask you about prayer? The point is know yourself! You know that you need to be plugged in to Jesus, our true vine. Don’t try to pray like you did on NET if that doesn’t work for you. Set yourself up for success by planning accordingly for the ways that you pray best.
- Consistency is key. Prayer is like any other habit. It requires consistency to build. If you’re feeling dry, stick with it. If you’re struggling to pray, start small and be consistent with it. Be faithful to the habit and you’ll see grace poured out.
- Learning to pray is a lifelong journey. Prayer is not a skill we master once and be done with it. It’s a lifelong journey with the Lover of our soul. God is always calling us deeper and showing us ways we can improve. Don’t be discouraged! Lean into it! And understand that your prayer life will ebb and flow with the many changes that life brings. That’s to be expected.
- How you learned to pray on NET is not the only way to pray. You learn a specific way to pray on NET, but that was never meant to be presented as the “best way” to pray. One of the beautiful things about our Catholic faith is the rich diversity within it. Again – find what works for you. The point of prayer is being in relationship with God – so how does God speak to you and draw you closer to himself? Focus on that. There are MANY ways we can pray and MANY resources out there to help us. Examples include:
- Lectio Divina and praying with scripture – try the daily readings as a starting point
- Daily mass, confession and adoration
- Pray the Rosary
- Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy
- Read the Lives of the Saints
- Pray the Liturgy of the Hours
- Pray while working; turning your tasks and service of others into a prayer
- Use prayer books – try The Better Part by Fr. John Bartunek or Prayer for Beginners by Peter Kreeft
- Online Catholic communities, such as Exodus 90 or Blessed is She
- Podcasts such as the Bible in a Year Podcast
- Praying with music (sacred music, gregorian chant, praise & worship)
- Doing a daily consciousness examen
- Reading spiritual books
The key takeaway from all this – what matters is not so much how you pray, but that you are praying at all. We’re all pilgrims on the same journey to heaven, but the routes we take to get there may look a little different. So find your way and keep walking! We pray that these lessons bless you, encourage you, strengthen you and set you free to dive deeper into your relationship with God.
…Ok, so maybe we did include a list of ways to pray. But they were all your suggestions!