We’ve all been there, right? Life throws us a few curve balls and sends our life careening down unknown paths and we find ourselves nowhere near where we thought we’d be. It could be just about anything that does it; a lost job, for instance or a new baby. Good things and bad alike can take our focus off of God and leave us in a place where all we can manage each week is to meet our Sunday obligation of Mass attendance. I like to call this “prayer life survival mode,” and I’m here to tell you that it’s okay sometimes.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating anyone throwing away a rich prayer life willy nilly. If you can manage to make it through the hardest of times and never lose that intimacy with the Father for which we are all made, please, share your secrets. I have a feeling I’m not the only one who’s suffered through this. If, however, you’re more like me and, while you’ve never intentionally missed Sunday Mass, you may have slacked off on your daily Rosary and can’t quite remember the last time you attended a Holy Hour, take heart. All is not lost. In fact, you’ve still got the makings of a saint somewhere inside of you.
The thing is, we’re human. By that I mean we’re all fallen creatures, incapable of perfection. We’re lazy, soft, and weak. We can be mean and obnoxious even. And guess Who knows this. Right. God. He knows exactly what each one of us is and His Church, also made by Him, knows this as well. There’s a reason we have only the obligation to attend Sunday Mass every week, and not daily Mass. He knows that many of us will manage to miss days on end, no matter how good our intentions are. He makes it easy on us to meet our obligation. As I tell my kids, God only requires that we give Him 0.6% of our week. He is Mercy Itself, after all.
Is it always better to try to cultivate a better spiritual life? Yes. Hands down. No question. Absolutely. Is it always possible? Again, yes. Even when it’s hard, it’s possible, because God is Mercy. He wants to give us every opportunity to allow Him to show us mercy. He wants so much to strengthen us and to bring us ever closer to Him. But He will never force it. And so, as long as we are meeting our bare minimum requirements, the door is open and we have a chance of allowing Him to enter.
1) When you’re stuck in survival mode, it’s important to remember to keep that door open. Never stop meeting those minimum requirements so that you do not fall into sin, which will make your soul either sick or mortally wounded. A healthy soul fights harder, plain and simple.
2) Try adding in one small thing that you know you can manage each day. When I lost my last child, I couldn’t get through a whole Rosary with my family. I was tired, in pain, and emotional. So I started forcing myself to just get through one decade. After a week of that one decade, I managed two. Before the end of the second week I was back at the whole thing. But the important thing was to start, however small a start it was.
3) If you can’t pray for yourself, ask others to pray for you. You might be surprised at how many people will jump at the chance to help a brother (or sister) out with this. The grace from their prayers may be just the jump start you need.
4) Go to confession. For all you know, you may be allowing something to hold you back spiritually. Confess, and see if you soul isn’t more inclined to give God His due glory. It’s hard not to want to praise Him when one experiences His love and mercy in the box.
5) Go back to basics. Can’t manage to “talk to God” in your own words? Pray a Hail Mary. Don’t know what it is you want to or even should say? Try an Our Father. Allow yourself a crutch. And oh, what a crutch. Unlike some other, less Jesus-founded churches (read: all the others), ours is a religion with a deep, rich history that includes many eloquent and prolific writers. Let one of them speak for you until you can speak for yourself.
As I said, I’ve been there. Being busy with the kids, the schoolwork, the housework. Feeling like you don’t have a moment to breath, much less pray. Or hurting. Hurting so bad that you can’t do anything but cry and feel the hurt. There is a way out of “survival mode.” Just keep going to Mass and try these five steps to a more active prayer life.
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