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A healthy prayer life must be intentional and be fueled by the desire to grow in relationship with the Lord, said a member of the spiritual formation staff at Saint Luke Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
Onerous resolutions to improve one’s spiritual life often fizzle, said Father Robert Ray, M.Div., but it is necessary to take an active role in improving prayer time. Our relationship with God takes time, energy, and work – just like other relationships, he said.
The first way to be intentional in the spiritual life is to schedule daily time for prayer and to be careful not to let other things encroach upon that time, Fr. Ray said. He recommends dedicating time in the morning or at midday, as most people are too tired in the evening.
Next, we must evaluate how we pray, Fr. Ray said, and consider whether a certain type of prayer or devotion that one has always used needs some “refreshment.”
“Do something you enjoy and invite God to do it with you,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be boring or tedious. Ask God, ‘Come with me and be my companion.’”
It is important to have accountability in the spiritual life, Fr. Ray said. The best ways to do that are to meet regularly with a spiritual director, to join a support group for priests or religious, and to attend an annual retreat.
“Silent, directed retreats respect the individuality of each person and their prayer life and their particular faith story,” he said. “There’s no substitute for that in terms of the depth of growth that can happen.”
It is also helpful, Fr. Ray suggested, to “bookend” the day with a short prayer in the evening. He recommended using St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Examen prayer at night to recall the moments of grace and challenge throughout the day.
Prayer life can suffer as a result of stress in other areas of life, Fr. Ray observed. If a person finds that his or her prayer life is being neglected, the first thing to do is institute a healthy balance of sleep, work, leisure and exercise.
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