Jesus asks that His disciples to “pray unceasingly.” (Luke 21:36) This is a hard command and requires great discipline in both the mind and body. Essentially to pray unceasingly is to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matt 5:48) for it is constantly keeping at the forefront of one’s mind and heart the twofold commandment: “love God and your neighbor.” (Luke 10:27) Prayer is putting these commandments into action.
To aid in a personal and perpetual active relationship with God, the Church has Mass offered daily; this is the highest form of prayer. Additionally, the Church has laid out holy hours to bring her members into prayer all throughout the day and night. These moments are called the “holy hours” or “Divine Office". These hourly prayers are divided into four categories: morning (lauds, terce), daytime (sext, none), evening (vespers, compline) and night prayers (matins).
“From ancient times the Church has had the custom of celebrating each day the liturgy of the hours. In this way the Church fulfills the Lord’s precept to pray without ceasing, at once offering its praise to God the Father and interceding for the salvation of the world.” – Office of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship.
Religious Congregations are created to have these hours set aside as a priority; it is scheduled into their day. However, a lay (normal) person isn’t often able to be as structured. Due to family and work life, it is unrealistic to expect the individual members of the lay community to be able to stop everything and pray formally at these times. For these members, the Church also gives support. Saying the Rosary, for instance, can be a substitute for the “Divine Office”, and being much more manageable, it is highly recommended. However, to someone who is a beginner at prayer, even the Rosary, may seem challenging. In this case, the Church is still very encouraging. The Church, as a loving Mother, accepts her children where they are at, and she invites them to participate in prayer as fully as they are able. For some people, this is simply praying spontaneously for a few moments, or offering up a “Hail Mary” or “God help me” in a dire moment. Whatever may be the case, the Church urges her children to do their best and to improve as they are able. She likens the journey to an athlete’s: he must start his conditioning slowly and in a healthy manner that will challenge him, but is reasonable enough to maintain daily. After good habits are secured, the athlete presses for more. For as an athlete weakens in complacency, so is contentment in one’s prayer life, a step backwards.
"Many walk for a while in the path of virtue but then are satisfied with the distance they have gone. But grace never says: "Enough!" Others think that they are doing a great deal if they do not slip into evil. Yet that is not enough; for the good man must strive daily to become better. Many a Christian will be surprised on the day of judgment to see himself heavily in debt to God's justice because he did not make use of the great means given him for becoming a great saint! On the path of virtue, not to advance is to go backwards; not to gain is to lose." - The Imitation of Mary
No matter how busy, everyone naturally pushes themselves to be better in some avenue; often, this is why our society is so “busy”. Since faith is a huge priority and essential to health, even the busiest persons can find a way to incorporate a simple act of prayer in their day. Easily, passions and daily living can be prayers themselves; every act of perfect love, in fact, is prayer. Every task can be done with love— rightly ordered. Overtime, a conscious act of faith will naturally be incorporated into everything, no matter how busy life becomes.
Ideas to increase one’s prayer life and thus, actively factor faith into one’s life equation:
- Attend daily Mass;
- Worthily receive the sacraments;
- Attend Adoration and Benediction once a week;
- Pray 10 more minutes a day than usual;
- Pray the Rosary;
- Pray the Divine Office;
- Pray before and after meals, or other personal scheduled times;
- Perform the Corporeal and Spiritual Acts of Mercy;
- Fulfill your daily duties in love (become an even better Spouse, Parent, Child, Friend, Neighbor, Employer, Employee, Co-worker, Customer, Student, etc.,.);
- Focus on a virtue and working to personally improve in it;
- Read the Bible;
- Read the lives of the Saints;
- Become involved in your parish;
- Go on a retreat to a Catholic Convent, Monastery or Abbey;
- Sit in complete silence and listen for God’s voice. Respond: “Here I am. Do with me what You will.”