There aren't many more exciting times of the year than when school lets out for summer!(Insert Alice Cooper song here) It is a glorious time for students, teachers and everyone who works with young people. As both a student and a youth minister, I know the relief to the end to the busy schedule of the school year. But I also know, and have witnessed in so many others, that the loss of routine often spells doom for the health of our spiritual lives.
At the beginning of every summer, many of us have the outlook that we will have so much more time to have fun, get the things done that we don't have time for during the school year, hang out with family, and more time to focus on our relationship with God and grow spiritually. But from personal experience, I know that these lofty goals don't always become a reality. Instead of using the time for what we think we should to help us grow as people, we settle for things like binge-watching on Netflix for days at a time. While this can be enjoyable and relaxing, it often pushes the other things we need to do aside.
I experienced this in a big way at the beginning of a summer during college. I had just finished an insanely intense semester. I wanted to do nothing else than sit in a chair and watch Netflix for days. So I did. I watched season upon season of "Lost." It was a fantastic show that kept me coming back for more. After a few seasons in a few days, there came an episode that punched me in the face and brought me back to my senses. One of the main characters, Sayid, is a Muslim man. In this particular episode, he gets off of the island that they have been stuck on for quite some time(spoiler alert), as is walking through a highly populated Muslim city. He is there seeking out an enemy and is about to find him when a large bell rings. Everyone in the busy marketplace stops what they are doing, kneels down and begins to pray. I was struck by the beauty of how everyone stopped their conversations, business and travel in an instant and turned their hearts to God in prayer. The reality that I wasn't making prayer a priority in my life punched me in the face. I knew I had to make a change. I turned the TV off at that moment, and prayed for the first time in a week.
To this day, I am amazed at how God worked through this situation. He used a fictional Muslim man in a non-Christian tv show to help me grow in my prayer life. Through this experience, I learned the importance of having a schedule to prayer. While I love spontaneous prayer as much as the next guy, I knew that I needed to have the discipline to stop what I am doing at different times of the day and turn my heart to God. It is widely known that Muslims do this periodically throughout their day, but a little lesser known that Catholics have a similar model from the Church. My hope is that in looking over the following list of ideas that have worked for me is that you will be able to schedule into each of your days a time to pray. It is so crucial for our spiritual health, especially in this Summer time where the rest of our routine is changing. Do whatever it takes to make prayer I priority in your day.
Daily Prayer Tips
-Set a timer on your watch or phone to remind you to pray.
-Make a deal with yourself that you will not watch tv, play video games, etc., before doing your daily prayer.
-Pick a time of day that consistently works for you to pray and choose an amount of time and be faithful to it. Start with 5-10 minutes a day.
-Pray before you get out of bed. Each morning, I say a 15-30 second prayer, offering the entire day to God.
-When you lay in bed at night, examine your day on what you could have done better and how you saw God working. Pray in thanksgiving for your day and the grace to grow again tomorrow.
-The Liturgy of the Hours. This is the official prayer of the Church. It is prayed by priests and religious periodically throughout the day. We are invited to pray it as well. It is helpful to me both to add structured time to my prayer but also is helpful when I can't think of what to say in prayer. It is a guided way to pray with the psalms, Scripture readings and more. I use the iBreviary app to pray on the go.
-The Youversion bible app. One of my favorite ways to pray is with Scripture. This app is useful since I can read it at any time on my phone. It also has great bible reading plans and reminders to help you consistently grow in your knowledge of Scripture.
-For years, Catholics would stop at noon and pray the Angelus. It is a short and sweet Marian devotion.
-Many people pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or simply stop and thank Jesus for His sacrifice on the cross at 3pm, the hour that he died. Set a timer :)
No matter what you choose, it is my hope that you will decide with me to make this Summer a time for spiritual growth through consistent and prioritized prayer. If you think this could be of help to others, please share this post. If you have other ideas on how to pray this summer, please share them in the comment section.
Taylor Schroll, the Forte Catholic