Sometimes, I think we confuse God for Santa Claus.
No, it’s not the beard or the potbelly, the kind heart or jolly attitude. It’s not the magical flying reindeer or whimsical North Pole. It’s the manner in which we view the white haired man… as the one we ask for all the “pretty things” from.
No, Santa’s not real (sorry to break it to you, friends), but sometimes I think we wish Santa was real and that God could take a lesson or two from him. God, why can’t you give me what I want? I’ve been a good girl. I’ve done everything you’ve asked!
But, what we miss out on when we only view God as the man-who-could-grant-our-every-Christmas-wish is a relationship. A real, living, loving relationship. Jesus’ gift to us of Himself as a little baby wasn’t the prettiest gift — ask any mom with a screaming baby — but, He was the gift we needed. It is when we get to know Our Lord in prayer that we realize all that He has done and is doing for us. It is in conversation with Him that we understand prayer to be less about changing God’s mind, and more about changing our hearts.
So, this new year, if you are to pick any resolution I hope that it is a resolution to grow in your relationship with God. And, in the spirit of that, here is a simple list of ways to improve your prayer life in 2016 (and beyond).
1. Take time to identify why you pray.
Begin this year by identifying why it is that you pray. Simple as that. When you take time to recognize why you do something, it holds more meaning, and when it holds more meaning for you, it’s more likely you’ll follow through and actually do it!
2. Keep a list of prayer intentions for yourself and others.
Put this list in a place you will see it every day. Pick it up and read through the list, stopping to ask God to answer each of these intentions according to His will.
3. Pray whenever you’re alone.
A great practice is to keep in mind that no matter what you are doing, or wherever you are, God is always available. Even though you may be alone, God hears you and desires to converse with you. A particularly great place to pray is in the car. Try dedicating the time you are alone in the car to prayer. You better believe God is a much better (and less bitter) travelling companion than Rihanna.
4. Seek out places of prayer.
You wouldn’t take out your phone and watch the Walking Dead during Mass, so why would you even try to pray while distracted at home? Even if there is a space of prayer in your home you enjoy, seek out an Adoration Chapel or quiet church near by. Sometimes, we need to take ourselves out of a distracting environment in order to be able to focus in on prayer. And, you can’t go wrong with being in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
5. Dedicate the first 15 minutes to prayer when you get home from school or work.
It’s great in theory to dedicate the first 15 minutes of your day to prayer. But, I bet you that 99% of attempts to pray in the morning, end in failure (my own included). Unless you are extremely disciplined in not hitting the snooze button, the better time of your day to dedicate to pray is when you get home. Whether at 2:30pm, or 7pm the momentum from the day is still going. Before you check your Instagram feed or turn on the TV. Sit down in a quiet place and converse with God about your day.
6. Take time to just be silent.
Simple as that. Be silent. Don’t think about anything other than God. Think about who He is, what He has done for you, how much He loves you… just be still, and sit in His presence (Psalm 46:10).
7. Don’t make up excuses.
To take a line from Nike, “Just do it.” The time you take making up excuses to why you don’t have time to pray is actually time in which you could’ve been praying. Every time you’re tempted to make up an excuse not to pray, say a Hail Mary and ask Our Lady to intercede for you and help you find time to pray.