Tips for personal prayer
Making a daily appointment with God
Encountering God is the heart of Catholic life. We are invited to pray, not just on Sundays at Mass, but every day! Our Father in heaven is the one who loves us 24/7, even if we sometimes forget this. Jesus came to earth to show us the face of the Father and remind us of God’s ever-present, unfailing love and mercy.
God tirelessly calls each person to this mysterious encounter with Himself. Prayer unfolds … as a reciprocal call between God and man (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2591).
The God of love — of the universe — longs to have a daily conversation with us, one-on-one!
Having a personal prayer time acknowledges our relationship with God and devotes time to nourish it. Honest talking and attentive listening matter in every human relationship. With God, that’s called prayer.
Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God. — St. John Damascene
The fourth part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is devoted to prayer. Here are a few tips for developing or improving your personal prayer time.
Make an appointment with God.
Jesus did — and so should we! The Gospels show us that even though Jesus is God, he was also a person with a human heart, emotions, responsibilities, and needs.
[Jesus] learned to pray according to his human heart (CCC, 2599).
Jesus prayed as a faithful Jew. He learned the formulas of prayer from his parents. He came to know the Scriptures and liturgical prayers from the synagogue in Nazareth and the temple in Jerusalem.
Yet Jesus also demonstrated the value of personal prayer time with his Father. The Gospels describe Jesus often taking time alone to pray. (Some examples are Luke 6:12; 9:18; 9:28; 11:1; 22:41–42.)
Jesus kept the appointed times for community worship, and he kept his appointments for private prayer, too. Let’s imitate Jesus! We know that when we put appointments on our calendar, we tend to keep them.
Be deliberate in planning your personal prayer times. The Catechism teaches, “In order to pray, one must have the will to pray” (CCC, 2650).
Find your happy place.
Jesus deliberately sought solitude for personal prayer: “He was praying in a certain place” (Luke 11:1).
Everyone needs a place to pray outside of the sacred space of the church. Jesus taught his followers to pray in their homes.
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret (Matthew 6:6).
Taking cues from Jesus, the Catechism recommends finding quiet spaces at home for personal prayer.
[T]his can be a “prayer corner” with the Sacred Scriptures and icons, in order to be there, in secret, before our Father (CCC, 2691).
Some families create and decorate a small home altar or mini-chapel for quiet personal prayer, but also as a place for family prayer times.
In a Christian family, this kind of little oratory fosters prayer in common (CCC, 2691).
Wherever you decide to pray, get as free as you can from distractions. Switch off the phone, radio, or TV.
Keep your Bible in your prayer place.
Prayer is conversation. We talk with God using our own words, just as we would with a friend. Yet for most of us, to hear God’s words to us, we need the Word of God — the Bible. Praying with God’s Word will lead you deeper into prayer.
Look up the daily Mass Scriptures at USCCB.org, subscribe to a magazine such as Living with Christ (LivingwithChrist.us) that includes the readings, or slowly pray through one of the Gospels. In this Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis recommends St. Luke’s Gospel. It contains many examples of God’s mercy, most notably Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son and his merciful father (see Luke 15:11–32).
The Catechism recommends praying with the Psalms, as Jesus did.
The Psalms constitute the masterwork of prayer in the Old Testament … recalling God’s promises. …
Prayed and fulfilled in Christ, the Psalms are an essential and permanent element of the prayer of the Church. They are suitable for … every condition and time (CCC, 2596–2597).
Love of the Psalms leads many people to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (the Divine Office).
Dive deep into knowing ‘Our Father.’
Jesus gave us the Our Father so we could better know our Father in heaven. If you’ve never read the Catechism, the easiest place to start is its line-by-line meditation on the words of the Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer. Find it in paragraphs 2777–2865 of the Catechism.
[T]he Lord’s Prayer reveals us to ourselves at the same time that it reveals the Father to us (CCC, 2783).