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The key to building a strong spiritual life that can weather life’s storms is to embrace the maxim, “Pray as you can, not as you ought,” according to a member of the spiritual formation staff at Saint Luke Institute.
That means that prayer should be rooted in “touch points” in which one naturally encounters God, said Monsignor Nicholas Amato. Touch points vary from person to person but are experiences an individual regularly has that direct his or her heart toward God. They may include things like nature, reading Scripture or exercise.
After a touch point is identified, Msgr. Amato suggested that the next step in natural prayer is to discern a phrase that “shimmers,” or moves the heart as a “little revelation from God.” Then that phrase can be harmonized to breathing and used for meditation.
For example, he said, a touch point might be the first cup of coffee and the phrase that shimmers might be, “I am your warmth.” A person can pray while drinking by synchronizing the repetition of those words to each breath.
It is important not to overthink prayer, Msgr. Amato cautioned, as that can be a barrier to contemplation. It is necessary, however, to reflect after prayer time on how prayer can be turned into action for good.
One can ask, “How is prayer going to make a difference in my life today?” It is helpful to keep a journal to track both the experience of prayer and the active intention that comes out of it so that the fruits of prayer can be recognized over time, Msgr. Amato said.
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