Guest post by Vince Frese. Visit his blog at vincefrese.com for more articles and insights.
Before my divorce, I usually only prayed at Mass on Sundays and before meals. Once my divorce hit, it seemed like I was praying all the time. Well, that is, if you consider pleading praying. I was calling out (read: SCREAMING) to Jesus continuously throughout the day for Him to save my marriage.
Most of us amp up our prayer when times get tough. That has been true throughout history. Just read the Psalms and you will see that it is full of pleading to God for Him to rescue His people from hardship.
But prayer is so much more than simply a “transaction” where we ask for something and God gives it. At its essence, prayer is about building a relationship. Just as your relationships with your family, friends, and counselor are key to your recovering from divorce, your relationship with Christ is even more essential. Prayer is the dialogue that builds that relationship.
Relationships, to be built and maintained, require consistent attention. You can’t expect to build a close friendship with someone you interact with infrequently. The same is true with your relationship with Christ. If He is to influence and encourage you — as any good friend would — you need to maintain a relationship with Him. This is prayer.
Having a Conversation
Just go into any Starbucks and you will see all types of relationships in action. How can you tell they are relationships? Well, because people are talking to each other. They are just not silently sipping their coffee and staring at each other. For most people, simply getting together and sharing each other’s lives through conversation is one of the most fulfilling things they do. It makes them feel connected to each other. The same is true with Christ.
It is so important to have routine dialogue with Christ. This is known as spontaneous, or conversational, prayer. Conversational prayer may seem unnatural for Catholics, since, for many of us, praying means saying rote prayers like the Hail Mary, or the Our Father. That type of prayer is important as well, and we will get to that shortly.
To help in your recovery from divorce (and, frankly, help with life in general), it is highly recommended that your block out at least 10 minutes each day for conversational prayer with Christ. While, this time could certainly be spent making requests of Christ, it is also very important to talk to Christ like you would a close friend. You wouldn’t spend your entire Starbucks time with a friend pleading for their help. Most likely you would tell them how your life is going, what’s going well, what you are struggling with, who is challenging you, etc. This is how you should dialogue with Christ. Just be real with Him.
Just as you wouldn’t spend your entire time with your friend asking for help, you also wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) do all the talking. Any healthy conversation is a shared conversation. You speak, while the other person listens. You listen, while the other person speaks. That is dialogue. One person doing all the talking is a monologue, not usually good for relationship building.
This is why listening during prayer time is just as important as talking. So you may be asking, “Okay, am I really supposed to be listening for Christ to speak to me?” Well, typically, Christ does not speak to us where we can hear Him audibly. In prayer, we may speak with our human mouth, but we listen with our spiritual being. That means we tune into our feelings, our awareness, and our conscience. It is that place in our being that we describe when we say we “had a feeling” about something, or we “just knew” what we should do. Christ speaks to us through our spiritual being. It is there that we become aware of how He is guiding us.
Keeping a journal can help you capture any inspirations you may receive from Our Lord during your conversational prayer. Writing them down allows you to review them later and helps you act on them.
To really be able to “hear” Our Lord, it is vitally important that you pray during a time that is quiet and you are not distracted with the activities of your day. Early morning or in the evening are some great times to pray.
Above all, the most important aspect of prayer is to do it consistently.
When most Catholics think of prayer, they usually think of the Hail Mary, Our Father, or the Glory Be. These are prayers that were taught to us from childhood and reinforced, typically, as part of our penance after confession. These prayers form the backbone of the devotional prayers, such as, the rosary, that are familiar to most Catholics.
Much like sit-ups and push-ups form the foundation of a good physical fitness program, devotional prayers form the foundation of a solid spiritual fitness program. And as with physical exercise, it is highly recommended to incorporate devotional prayer into your daily routine.
The most recognized and popular devotional prayer is the rosary. The Blessed Mother accompanies us on our journey through life, much like she did her son, Jesus. She wants nothing but the best for us and brings our prayers directly to her Son. For this reason, Catholics believe her prayers are very potent. By praying the rosary, you are recognizing Mary’s great power and influence and asking her to speak to Jesus (i.e. intercede) on your behalf.
A complete rosary consists of praying ten Hail Mary’s (known as a decade), five times. Before each decade, you can make a special request to Mary. The ten Hail Mary’s that follow can be looked at as you reinforcing the importance of your request to Mary. Another way of looking at this is the ten Hail Mary’s are like wrapping your request in special gift wrap or bringing it to her with a bouquet of flowers.
While it is certainly desirable, you don’t have to pray all five decades of the rosary each day. Even one decade, said with reverence and focus, provides great spiritual benefits. Like conversational prayer, to be fully effective, devotional prayer should be done consistently — every day is the goal.
For more information on how to pray the rosary, click here.
The Divine Mercy Chaplet
While not as well known as the rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet is a powerful devotional prayer that has brought comfort and peace to many. When you pray the rosary, you are bringing your prayers to the Blessed Mother. When you pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, you bring your prayers directly to Jesus.
The Divine Mercy Chaplet was given to us by Our Lord through St. Faustina during the early 20th Century. St. John Paul II was the leading proponent of Divine Mercy and is responsible for its popularity. The main message of Divine Mercy is to trust in Jesus and His infinite mercy.
Divorce is a time in our lives when we, and all the people involved, need an abundance of mercy. Praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet asks Our Lord to pour out His mercy on us. And who can’t use that?
For more information on Divine Mercy and the Chaplet go to www.divinemercy.org.
Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross is a devotional prayer that recalls the last hours of Our Lord’s life. Beginning with Jesus being condemned by Pilate to die by crucifixion and ending with Him being laid in the tomb, the stations tell the story of Jesus’s death. This story is told in fourteen different scenes. In every Catholic Church you will see images of each of these scenes displayed either inside the church or on the church grounds.
While it is very common for the Stations to be “prayed” during Lent, especially on the Fridays of Lent, they can be prayed any time. Since the Stations focus on Christ’s sacrifice of love for us through His immense suffering, praying the Stations can help you connect your suffering with Christ’s. Many people find that praying the Stations brings them strength and comfort, as the Stations are a vivid reminder of the great love Christ has for us, and how powerfully present He is to us when we suffer.
For more information on the Stations of the Cross, and to receive a Stations of the Cross written especially for divorced Catholics, go to: Stations of the Cross for Divorced Catholics
Don’t Give Up
Prayer is essential to your recovery from divorce. It strengthens your relationship with the Great Healer, Jesus, and calls on the mighty power of all the saints. Just as it would be unrealistic to expect great results from an exercise program that you only did sporadically, prayer is the same way. While all of our prayers are heard, even if we offer them only occasionally, prayer reaches its full potential to transform our lives when we pray every day. Start with just ten minutes of prayer each day and see how it will change your life — for the better!
Question: Do you have a favorite prayer that you would like to share? Do you have a story to share about how prayer has changed your life?