As a 20-something unmarried gal, I pretty much have full reign over my daily schedule including how and when I pray. This state of life brought about a sweet season of spontaneity with the Lord, but did not inspire a lot of consistency on my part. I found myself falling asleep while trying to pray at night, or only being able to stop by the chapel for five minutes and calling that encounter sufficient for the day.
Feeling the gentle invitation to go deeper and make connecting with Him a daily priority, I felt called to set aside time for daily prayer in the morning. The Bible, especially the Psalms, point towards morning prayer in particularly poignant ways:
For to you I will pray Lord; in the morning you will hear my voice; in the morning I will plead before you and wait. // Psalm 5:3-4
My alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays. As a non-morning person, this comes much too early for my liking most of the time. I began attempting my new morning routine in earnest, but was immediately confronted by my own weaknesses. I hit the snooze button one too many times and even found myself dozing when trying to pray.
Using Your 5 Senses in Morning Prayer
As Catholics, we are blessed to have numerous examples of prayer and sacrament that engage our physical senses to draw us to God. For me, the key to being successful (i.e. not falling back to sleep and really connecting with the Lord in the mornings) came from creating habits in my morning prayer that engage all five of my senses.
Prayer Feels Like
One of the biggest game changers when it came to making time for daily prayer was setting aside a place. My place is an arm chair in the corner of my bedroom. It’s comfy, large enough to curl up, and has a big basket of blankets right beside it. For me, prayer feels like sitting down in my chair and wrapping up in a blanket. I’m instantly comfortable, relaxed, and ready to be with the Lord.
Even if you don’t have a space specifically designed for prayer in your home, make sure you get out of bed and move to a different part of the house. Whether it’s the couch or kitchen table, physically moving yourself to a new location ensures you are more alert. Head to the same place each morning and eventually your brain will connect the habit, recognizing that spot as the place you pray.
Prayer Sounds Like
When engaging in mental prayer, I definitely recognize the importance of silence. It is important to give the Lord room to speak in our hearts. However, first thing in the morning, it is easy to let our minds drift or doze, especially if we’re praying silently.
Whenever I find myself getting off track, I start talking to Him audibly. This forces me to focus on what I am trying to relate to Him and ensures I’m really having a conversation with the Lord (as opposed to just thinking about my problems).
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Prayer Tastes Like
Every morning before I begin in prayer, I make a brief pit stop in the kitchen to visit my Keurig. I’m not a coffee gal, but as an avid tea drinker, starting the day off with a London Fog (a heavenly combo of Earl Grey tea, steamed milk, and vanilla syrup) always puts me in a good mood. I like to make my drink before I settle into to prayer for two reasons:
- The time it takes to make it ensures I’m even slightly more awake then I normally would be if I went straight into prayer.
- Caffeine. Sipping throughout prayer helps me to wake up and focus more clearly, sooner than if I was just rubbing sleep out of my eyes.
There’s just something sweet about chatting with the Lord over a warm beverage like you would any friend. Consider having your morning tea (or coffee) with Jesus.
Prayer Looks Like
When my mind wanders in mental prayer, sometimes it is just a flitting distraction that comes and goes, and sometimes it is enough to get me really off course. When this happens, it can be helpful to have visual cues in your line of sight that can help direct your attention back to the Lord. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, it can be as simple as a prayer card you keep in your journal or a crucifix in your room.
Having something to look at when you’re distracted is a gentle reminder to get back to what you’re there for: connecting with the Lord.
Prayer Smells Like
One of the most powerful senses we have as humans is our smell. Whether it is the smell of freshly cut grass that brings us back to summer nights or chocolate chip cookies that make us feel at home, smell can transport us instantly. For me, prayer smells like a very specific scented candle.
I light the same candle each morning when I go to pray. It is a candle I only use when I’m praying, and I’m careful not to light it at any other point in the day. It is just another way to ensure there is a physical cue that reminds me to enter in. This can be any scent you want (I personally love the smell of incense and my prayer candle smells just like it!)
And as an added bonus, the warm glow of my prayer candle reminds me of the candle that burns next to each tabernacle. Outside the tabernacle it signals to us the Lord’s presence within, and I love looking at my candle in the morning and being reminded of the Lord’s presence with me there.
How Do You Engage Your Senses in Prayer?
Prayer may feel, sound, taste, look or smell different for your personal morning routine, but hopefully by engaging your senses in new ways you will be able to connect more deeply with the One who can’t wait to converse with you.
Shelby Hennen is a young professional who hails from the Midwestern metropolis of Kansas City, MO. She loves a good book, a good chat with a friend, and a good taco joint.