Keeping in mind the Lenten focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving, I’ll be exploring those themes in my Friday posts. Since this is the first Friday of Lent, I figured I’d start with something basic to get myself into the season: prayer.
I have found that one of the greatest obstacles to prayer is creating the space to pray.
Sometimes this means a physical space. Do you have a place where you can pray? Whether it’s the Eucharistic Adoration chapel at your parish or the well lit window in your bedroom or even a corner of your desk where you can put a crucifix, find a place where you can focus yourself into prayer. It can be a very helpful part of your prayer routine to have a visual reminder. Peaceful spaces make it easier to concentrate on God instead of on distractions.
Sometimes, though, this means an interior space. It is important to find quiet not only in the room you inhabit but in your own heart and mind. The most persistent distractions are usually not the noises of my environment, but my own worries, anxieties and mental to-do lists. There are days when every time I sit down to pray, I only end up remembering something else I meant to do. It takes a lot of effort to clear out an interior space to fill with God.
One simple way to cultivate this space is to practice listening. A huge part of prayer is being able to listen to (or for) God, but it’s also one of the most frustrating parts if you can’t be still. You can practice by listening to the people you’re with. Some of the most annoying fights I have had with loved ones have been because one or the other of us didn’t listen all the way through before reacting. So much misunderstanding could have been avoided if we only take the time to let the other person have their entire say!
I have found this to be an especially useful awareness to have when I work with teens. Sometimes, people don’t have their idea articulated fully. Ask questions in response to someone else’s ideas instead of immediately critiquing. Allow other people to develop their thoughts and you’ll be encouraging their creativity as well as your own patience.
Another way to cultivate an interior space is practice unplugging yourself. Even while writing this post, I had been listening to my newest CD. We get so used to filling our minds with a million different little things that we don’t know how to take the time to unwind all of our thoughts and feelings. If we get in the habit of taking a couple minutes of breathing space each day (no music, no phone, no Internet, no television, etc.), we will find it easier to transition into prayer.
Those are just a few of my ideas. What are your strategies for clearing some interior space for prayer? Give them a try and let me know how they work in the comments.