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BIS LIVES

6 Steps to a Deeper Prayer Life

There’s something to be said about the stillness of the morning, those moments before the sunrise when the whole world seems still. There’s something to be said for praying during that time, too, when the whole world is still and there’s no one calling us, no distractions to be had. There’s only God.

I learned about the secret of praying in the morning while sitting in a New York apartment talking with Juanita Morales, OP, a Dominican Sister of Hope. Sister Juanita came to the United States from Puerto Rico to enter the convent in 1957, but she had been building her prayer life before that. When she was just a child, Sister Juanita would sit with her mother in the backyard and relish silence. Looking back, she realizes that was quality time with her Creator.

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As I quickly learned, Sister Juanita’s prayer secrets aren’t only for vowed sisters: you can connect with God throughout the day –and build a stronger prayer life on the whole– no matter what your vocation is. Here are six easy ways to start.

1. Commit to Silence.

Sister Juanita wakes up at 4:30 am everyday in order to ensure that she can pray in darkness and complete silence.

By choosing a time when your neighbors/kids/friends aren’t up and your phone won’t ring, you are guaranteed peace and quiet that you might not get at other times during the day. Moreover, turning off the lights can be an extra help.

“I like to pray in the dark always,” Sister Juanita shares. “To be quiet with your God, it’s just neat. I enjoy that.”

2.Discipline Yourself to Stick with It

Once you’ve begun to get into the groove of prayer, it takes discipline to keep up the habit. It is crucial to assign yourself a specific time everyday to pray, and to honor that time commitment. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a long stretch. Five minutes is a good starting point; you can always increase the length of prayer from there.

3. Keep a Journal

Journaling daily helps to track progress in your spiritual life, and to identify patterns that can help inform prayer. Journaling might seem daunting, but you don’t have to start out with a blank slate.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Include Movement

Although Sister sets aside time to pray every morning in stillness, she follows it with tai chi soon after. Whether it’s prayerful yoga or a slow walk, consider how you might use movement to connect with Him.

5. Multitask

Prayer shouldn’t only be done while doing something else. Yet, multitasking helps to stay connected to God throughout the day, even while doing seemingly menial tasks like cooking or driving.

“When I’m cooking, I’m praying for the people who have farms and till the earth, and those who get the goods to me, and the stores. I pray for all those people,” Sister says. How can you incorporate prayer into daily tasks?

6. Start Now.

Certainly, there are steps we can take to help us focus more on prayer. Yet, like any good habit, the only sure way to improve your prayer life is to embark on the task. Whether you’re praying for others, praying with your body, praying in stillness or praying in the dark, the important part is that you pray.

As with all good habits, there’s never a better time than right now.

We spoke with Gina, the writer for this post in regards to some questions in the combox:

I have talked with Sister Juanita and a few other sisters about this, and they say the following:

While yoga, tai chi, and Richard Rohr are condemned by some writers, they are not condemned by the magisterium of the Church. About yoga and tai chi: Saint Dominic used nine body movements to focus his prayer. In the tradition of Saint Dominic, bodily movement is very important to prayer for modern-day Dominicans.

Sister Juanita prays for two hours each morning, and this prayer includes yoga and tai chi chih. (Tai chi chih is a form of tai chi, which can also be known as Joy through Movement.) This bodily prayer takes place alone in her home and is directed at God the Father. As she suggests in the article, Sister finds that this movement deepens her Christian spirituality and is fully in line with her Catholic beliefs. This is not the only way that she prays, but Sister finds that it is one valuable way of many.

Gina Ciliberto is the Digital Media Journalist for the Dominican Sisters of Hope: 160+ Catholic Sisters who live hope in fifteen states and Puerto Rico. More about the Sisters’ lives and ministries at www.ophope.org.

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    Alea
    February 2, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    I appreciate these steps to follow – and the most important of course to is START! Praying in the darkness is a new one to me, that I would like to try. I would also like to point out that Tai Chi doesn’t fall in line with Catholic teaching, and it’s unfortunate that it is being suggested as a way to improve your prayer life. Here’s more info: https://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=338

    • Reply
      Emily
      February 2, 2016 at 6:51 pm

      Thank you for saying that Alea. Also, yoga doesn’t either.

      • Reply
        Jenna
        February 10, 2016 at 4:07 pm

        We got clarification, and it is in the post, Emily! 🙂

    • Reply
      Jenna
      February 6, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      Thank you for your feedback, Alea! We will reach out to Sister Juanita if she’d like to clarify the tai chi and yoga comments. I deeply apologize, and please know we search to always follow the truths of the Roman Catholic Church! Please be assured we have that in the forefront of our mind, always. Again, thank you for reaching out, sister.

      • Reply
        Jenna
        February 10, 2016 at 4:07 pm

        We got clarification, and it is in the post, Alea! 🙂

    • Reply
      Jenna
      February 10, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      We got clarification, and it is in the post, Alea! 🙂

  • Reply
    Amelia
    February 2, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Nice list overall, but Father Richard Rohr’s teachings are NOT orthodox. :/ https://www.spiritualdirection.com/2014/09/05/can-trust-fr-richard-rohr

    • Reply
      Anon
      February 4, 2016 at 11:04 pm

      Agreed. I knew I was familiar with his name. Unfortunately, both the endorsement of Fr. Rohr and yoga and tai chi kind of invalidated the worthiness of this article. I was hoping for something to bring into my Lenten promises, but this stuff is a bit too New Age and not authentically Catholic. I love recommending this site to other women, but I might need to be more careful in the future.

      • Reply
        Jenna
        February 6, 2016 at 2:46 pm

        Thank you for your feedback! We have removed his name from this list for now until we have some more clarity. We will reach out to Sister Juanita if she’d like to clarify the tai chi and yoga comments. I deeply apologize in your concern for our validity, and please know we search to always follow the truths of the Roman Catholic Church! Please be assured we will have that on the forefront of our mind, always. Again, thank you for reaching out.

      • Reply
        Jenna
        February 10, 2016 at 4:07 pm

        We got clarification, and it is in the post! 🙂

    • Reply
      Jenna
      February 6, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      Thank you for your feedback, Amelia! We have removed his name from this list for now until we have some more clarity.

      • Reply
        Amelia
        February 6, 2016 at 3:23 pm

        Hi Jenna,

        I appreciate that you and the BIS team are listening. 🙂

        Amelia

    • Reply
      Jenna
      February 10, 2016 at 4:08 pm

      We got clarification, and it is in the post, Amelia! 🙂

      • Reply
        Amelia
        February 10, 2016 at 8:15 pm

        The Magesterium can’t condemn every single heterodox writer. ? His work speaks for itself. I won’t be reading it and I don’t suggest anyone do. There may be good things in it but why worry that much of what you’re reading is misleading when there are SO many other Catholic writers to choose from?

        • Reply
          Jenna
          February 10, 2016 at 8:25 pm

          Totally agree, Amelia, so we left his information out of the post still. Thank you again for your feedback 🙂 I really appreciate you continuing this conversation.

  • Reply
    Erin
    February 3, 2016 at 10:41 am

    I’m glad I’m not the only person who was surprised to see yoga and tai chi recommend to Catholic women. I’m actually pretty disappointed because this suggestion could lead some sisters astray. I hope in the future prayer recommendations are fully in accord with the teachings the Holy Catholic Church. We have a rich history of saints who taught on prayer, why use practices based on Eastern religions that invoke energies and gods? I usually don’t make negative comments unless I believe that the writer has stated something that could damage souls. Please know that I appreciate the goal of this blog to help women pray more, and that is why I hope corrections will be made. Thank you, and God bless.

    • Reply
      Jenna
      February 6, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      Thank you for your feedback, Erin! We will reach out to Sister Juanita if she’d like to clarify the tai chi and yoga comments. I deeply apologize, and please know we search to always follow the truths of the Roman Catholic Church! Please be assured we will have that on the forefront of our mind, always. Again, thank you for reaching out, sister.

    • Reply
      Jenna
      February 10, 2016 at 4:09 pm

      We got clarification, and it is in the post, Erin! 🙂

    • Reply
      Erin
      February 11, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      I appreciate the effort you have made to clarify the article. I do not agree with all of it. I think that when introducing methods of prayer to women who are just starting out it would be great to suggest prayer that is not in the “gray” areas. Perhaps advising a novice in prayer to start with a decade of the Rosary, a Divine Mercy Chaplet, or slowly reciting the Our Father? I also always suggest daily Mass if time permits. Sorry for being sassy, I could sass a lot more about this subject but it’s Lent and I gave up sassing :p

      I just desire what’s best for souls. Keeping in the safety of the approved teachings of the Church is probably your best bet when helping someone start a prayer life. Thanks again!

      • Reply
        Gina
        February 12, 2016 at 6:50 am

        HI Erin,

        Thanks for your comments! I think it’s so important for each of us to follow our own individual inclinations with prayer. If yoga doesn’t feel right, maybe a slow walk is more your style. If neither feels right, maybe movement during prayer isn’t for you.

        I agree that keeping in line with church teaching is important, and I’m not trying to deviate from that here. It does seem (and the comments reflect this) that this group is already well acquainted with daily mass, novenas, and many traditional and valuable forms of prayer. These suggestions aren’t meant to stand in place of those, but rather to supplement them. If a person has a new interest in Catholic prayer, is the best introduction to it a yoga class? No. But, for those of us who are seeking to deepen, not initiate, our prayer lives as the title suggests, bodily movement as we see in the tradition of Saint Dominic can be a valuable step.

  • Reply
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