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Column: Trying to find time to pray this Lent? Just do it!

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

You may have heard about Father Larry Richards, a priest of the Diocese of Erie, Pa.

He gives lots of talks, and, a couple of years ago, he showed up at a Men Under Construction retreat to give his talk, “Be A Man.”

Father Richards is a nice guy, but when it comes to spiritual reality checks, he might as well swing down to the ambo on a rope, wearing a patch over one eye and a parrot on his shoulder. Like a pirate of old, he takes no prisoners.

“The reality is, gentlemen, that you’ve got to be a man,” said Father Richards. “And I am sick and tired of the wimpiness of Catholic men!”

Aaarrrgh, Father Richards! Swing that cutlass! Aaarrrgh!

(Check out Father Rich- ards online at: www.the reasonforourhope.org.)

He told the men that day to place their Bible next to their bed. The first thing they should do upon waking was to read it.

Don’t ever tell him you “try” to have a daily prayer life.

Don’t. Ever. Do. It.

If you do, wear body armor.

Do you eat? Do you watch TV or check your email? Then you’ve got time for prayer, said Father Richards.

I like one of his little saying, which is also used by Scott Hahn and a lot of Protestants: No Bible, no breakfast; no Bible, no bed.

It’s a matter of priorities, said Father Richards. It’s also about planning.

Do you have a long com- mute? Put the car on cruise control (if applicable) and pray the rosary, or buy a rosary CD or MP3 and pray along as it plays. No time for a full rosary? Do one decade.

Another possibility is singing along with your favorite hymns or religious songs. I’ll admit it — I own a “Godspell” CD.

Keep a Bible by your bed. Keep one on your desk at work, or in the car or truck. Keep a New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs in your purse. When waiting somewhere, or on your lunch hour, pull that out to read and pray a psalm.

Be intentional. Set aside a definite, nonnegotiable time for prayer. It can also help to have a “prayer place” — the breakfast nook, a picnic table in the yard, a chair on the porch — anywhere.

Grab opportunities for “micro-prayers,” short and quick prayers done on the fly. They can be as heartfelt and sincere as any long, formal prayer you may care to make.

The first kind is the informal kind that springs from the heart (or your gut) in times of your greatest need or anxiety. They are a quick response to the grace and inspiration that God sends us all the time. Feel that urge to pray? Do it — that’s God knocking.

The second kind is called an aspiration, or in the pre-Vatican II church, an ejaculation. It is a short, memorized prayer that you can repeat all day long, usually done in rhythm with your breathing. One of the great traditional aspirations is the Jesus prayer, very popular with Eastern Orthodox Christians and Eastern Rite Catholics: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

I know this all makes it seem easier than it really is. I get it. Carving out some time for prayer isn’t so easy. I fail at it, too, all the time. For the rest of Lent, will you come along and struggle with me?

Remember: priorities, planning, place, opportunities, discipline and intentionality. Write them down if you have to.

Make up your mind that you will indeed carve out some time for prayer this Lent. Let’s borrow a little bit of wisdom from the world:

Just do it.

And,

Keep doing it.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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