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How Do I Pray?

Practical tips from Fr. Michael Sliney on how to pray.
by Fr. Michael Sliney, LC | Source:

"Lord, teach us to pray!" (Lk. 11:1).  This question has certainly been around for a long time!  Like the apostles, you might find yourself thinking, "I want to pray, but I don't know how!"  Well, here are some practical tips that I hope will help you in your effort to pray.

1. Warm up the Engine:  Given the cold winters in Michigan, we used to warm up the engine for several minutes to defrost the windows and heat up the car before leaving the drive way.  Do not jump right into prayer…these tips might be helpful
-  Remind yourself that you are in the presence of Christ, he is listening and he cares.
-  Thank him for your faith and for the many benefits and graces that he has given to you.
-  Silence:  we need to create an inner disposition of silence to hear “God’s whisper” (cfr. 1 Kings 19:13)

2. When and Where? “But when you pray, go to your private room, shut yourself in, and pray to your Father who is in that secret place.” (Mt 6:6).  The chapel or your room/prayer corner should be the preferred places for prayer.  It can also be helpful to set aside a very specific time of prayer and if you are not able , simply choose another time. 

3. But what if I get distracted?  If you do get distracted during prayer, just jot down the problem/solution on a notepad to be resolved after your prayer time.  This is very typical in prayer and we should not allow this to frustrate us or pull us away from this intimate time with Christ.

4. Different Forms of Prayer:

A. Lectio Divina: a conversation about the Word of God (preferably the Gospels)
- Faith: “…you welcome it for what it really is, not the word of any human being but God’s word, a power that is working among you believers.”    (I Thes 2:3)
- Holy Spirit: The author of Sacred Scripture is in you and will help interpret the text for your particular needs.  The idea is to converse with Christ about the text to see how you can better conform your life to his most holy will…so as to be a more effective instrument of his love.
- Consider, Ponder and Relish:  “Stop to consider, ponder and relish the truths that make the greater appeal to you in order to fix them in your mind, from there to elicit acts and affections.” (St. John Eudes). It may be helpful to write down the lights and inspirations that you received in a journal.   
- Make a practical resolution at the end of the meditation and thank God for the graces received.

B. Examination of Conscience:  To look back on your day in the presence of Christ to allow him to let you see the graces that you received, and your correspondence or lack thereof to his divine inspirations.  

C. Rosary: To offer up an intention for each mystery and either meditate on that mystery or the words as you say the Hail Mary’s, to offer up each Hail Mary for individuals and think about them as you pray.   It is also helpful to make a daily visit to the Blessed Virgin Mary and have a filial conversation with her from the heart, asking her for the grace to persevere one more day.

D. Spontaneous Prayers: We can talk with Christ anywhere, anytime…he is our constant traveling companion and friend who is always ready to listen and help us through whatever bumps we may have on the way.  I recommend to husbands who are travelling home from work to have this conversation with Christ so as to gain the strength to be the loving, compassionate and generous husband and dad that their family so badly needs when they walk in the door.  A woman wrote me an email saying that she often asks Christ for help using these words;  “you know I’m tired and really don’t want to do x, y or z, but I love you and I will do it, knowing that you’ll give me the strength to do it…” or “I’m so tired right now, so please help me to not lose my patience with the kids”. 

Email Fr. Michael at!  

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Published by: Narda N. Phillips
Date: 2010-05-18 14:03:04
Offten times the exact situation as discuss in the commentary arise and there is no teach other than the Holy Spirit. Which we as beleivers has to be certain that He will bring back to our intellect or person the correct scripture,verse, or thought which ever is really needed at the time. The faith of a mustard seed is what we should continue to strive for. Even as small as a pin or a dot that faith can take us a long way if we just continue to believe with good works. Dpon't stop beleivimg in the Trinity of the Spirit.

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