There are two ways to live prayerfully in your everyday life. The first is to pray around, in and through the ordinary activities of your day. The second is to cultivate a contemplative lifestyle. With a little creativity, you can find many ways to interweave your life with prayer.
Here are 10 suggestions...
1. It is easy to pray ready-made prayers throughout the day because they require less concentration and take up less time. Beginning the day with the Morning Offering, and taking little breaks during the day to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary or the Angelus has enhanced Christians’ daily lives for hundreds of years. Today, many people are returning to the practice of going to daily Mass. Church parishes sometimes offer convenient Mass times for people on their way to and from work or on their lunch breaks.
2. Mealtimes provide an opportunity to praise God for his many gifts. A Jesuit community in Cambridge, Massachusetts, pauses between their entreé and dessert for a communal prayer wherein individuals verbally thank God for some concrete blessing of that day. This type of prayer could easily be adapted to various family get-togethers.
3. Before communicating with anyone, one can pray for that person. I developed a little habit of making the Sign of the Cross with my thumb over the addressee of my outgoing mail as a way of blessing the recipient. One could develop similar habits with phone conversations, appointments and so on.
4. From my grandparents’ generation, I learned to “offer up” any pains, difficulties or sacrifices of the day. If your back is aching or you have a headache that won’t go away, you can ask God to make your quiet acceptance of the pain a prayer for some intention of the day. You can do the same with unpleasant or tedious tasks such as grading papers or mowing the lawn.
5. One of my strongest memories of my grandmother is her insistence that we begin any trip by saying the rosary. We were always well into the first decade before even leaving the town limits!
6. From my dad, I learned that anything can be blessed. After his long days of soybean or wheat planting, he would return to each field to say a short blessing over it. A wise teacher taught me to pray over my grade-book by prayerfully touching each name therein. When I was a kid, my mom prayed over my aching junk food-laden tummy. While driving on the freeway, I sometimes pray silently for the strangers I see as I go by. When I am traveling and staying in a guest room or an AirBnB, I usually say a prayer over the room before I leave, asking God to bless the next person who stays there.
7. A favorite slogan of my mom is “A family that prays together stays together.” That is why she routinely gathered my dad, my four brothers and me together for a Bible reading or the rosary.
8. Making the Sign of the Cross is a wonderful little ritual. Many Cajuns do so upon hearing the siren of an emergency vehicle as a way of praying for whoever is in trouble. My Cajun elders also “sign themselves” every time they drive past a church as a reminder that God dwells among his people.
9. I like to keep a small dry-erase board nailed to the back of my closet door so that I’m the only one who would notice it. On it, I write a word, phrase, Bible verse or quote that will remind me daily of whatever grace I am presently bringing into my boat. Holy cards and prayers on stickers or magnets can also be helpful in this regard.
10. It’s good to be engaging in spiritual reading continuously. Catholic publishers now have great spiritual books in small sizes that you could fit into your purse, briefcase or book bag.
It is a good idea for me, as a beginner in contemplative prayer, to set up some little rituals for my prayer life. Here are a few suggestions:
• I pray in the same place and position every day. I experiment with different spots until I find the one that works best. Most people prefer a comfy straight-back chair (such as an armchair or a recliner) in a dimly lit room. I might add an object or two (for example: a candle, a cross, a picture, a prayer shawl, a memento) to mark the place as special.
• I pray at the same time every day. I experiment to figure out what time of day is most amenable to me (that is, when it is easiest for me to quiet myself). Many find the early morning best for solitude, but this is by no means a hard and fast rule. Praying at the same time every day may also help those I live with to know when to “lay low.”
• I begin and end my prayer in the same way every day. God told Moses at the burning bush, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:4ff.). Saint Ignatius of Loyola suggests that the pray-er “reverence his spot” before praying, so, I bow, genuflect, or kneel before my own holy ground. I end the prayer time with the Sign of the Cross, the Our Father or some other prayer I like (or I make up my own).