Say hello! When a friend enters a room, the first thing most people do is say hello or throw up a wave or nod. In many ways, this is the beginning of prayer: an acknowledgement of God's presence. When we walk into a Church, we genuflect in front of the tabernacle to humble ourselves while we acknowledge and reverence the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist inside. As you begin to pray, whether it's just walking somewhere during the day, in a chapel or in your room, take a moment to acknowledge whose presence you are in. 'Be still, and know that I am God' (Psalms 46:11).
Be yourself. So many people think that holiness is unattainable, and that to pray we need to look like a statue of St. Francis with our hands folded piously. The reality is that we were created to be in communion with God, and He desires to be in a relationship with us. He doesn't want you to be a carbon copy of a past saint. He created you with your own gifts and passions, and wants to shine through you uniquely in them. Come to him as you are and let Him transform you into the saint He wants you to be!
“Teach us to pray' (Luke 11:1). Jesus' apostles asked Him these words, and that conversation resulted in what we call the 'Our Father' prayer. If his own apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, how much more should we ask him to teach us to pray! Ask God to help you and know that He listens. 'Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you' (Matthew 7:7).
Hit the brakes! The world we live in today blasts us with media and noise from every direction all day, from texting to music to tv and internet. These aren't bad things, but too much can be distracting from our relationship and conversation with God. “Silence is so lacking in this world which is often too noisy, which is not favorable to recollection and listening to the voice of God” (Pope Benedict XVI). Take 10 minutes every day from the time you spend on facebook or tv, and use that time to pray. Put God back at the center of your heart and mind.
Keep it alive. A prayer life that isn't kept up is like a pond with no water flowing in or out. It becomes stagnant. There's no oxygen coming in, and it becomes uninhabitable. All you’ll find is scum and mosquitos. Nobody likes mosquitos; don't be that person. Yet a person who cultivates their relationship with God in prayer finds a much different picture. There is fresh water flowing in and out of the pond. It is life giving! There are flowers and trees that grow along the sides. Your prayer life will affect the other areas of your life.
'Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, Nor go the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers. Rather, the law of the LORD is their joy; God’s law they study day and night. They are like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers' (Psalms 1:1-3).
Let it transform you. Practice makes perfect. The entire Christian life, including prayer, is something that we have to work on to become better at it. God can do amazing things in us through our reaching out to him in prayer!
'Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven' (St. Ephraem of Syria).