People pray, sometimes. A few people pray, often. Most people feel that they don’t know how to pray at all. We read, listen, think, debate, and ask about it. We try learning to pray. But prayer is tough!
In Psalm 46 we hear “Be still, and know that I am God.”
St. Paul calls for us to “Pray without ceasing.”
St. Seraphim of Sarov says “Acquire a spirit of peace, and a thousand souls around you will be saved.”
These quotes are instructive reminders that can help our prayer take shape. These are just some of the lessons I have taken from these quotes:
- Turn off your phone and be quiet. Move away from distractions. Relax, breathe, and try to be still.
- Remember that you are a human being, not a human doing. Take a moment to acknowledge your existence. Try saying the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
- Reflect on your existence and acquire a spirit of peace.
Reflect on my existence?! Acquire a spirit of peace?! That sounds really hard.
Sometimes, trying to pray feels like trying to draw the rest of the owl (refer to the image at the top of this post). Luckily, there’s a great tool to help you move forward: journaling!
Many people use journaling as a means of self-reflection. Writing down my thoughts helps me “be still” while still allowing my mind to flow. You may find this to be helpful as well.
If you like, begin your entry with the date and a prayer of thanksgiving. God, I am thankful for this. God, I am thankful for that. Also thank you for my friends. Etc., etc., et. al. This helps you begin with a good mindset.
As I continue writing, I think about things that have happened to me recently. I think about the things I did (or didn’t do) all day, my friends, and my family. You can do this, too. Think about the good things that happened to you, and the bad things. Think about how they made you feel. Write it down as if you’re telling a friend, or future you, or God.
After that, I take it a step deeper. I ask myself why I did the things I did or felt the way I felt. Do likewise; think about your goals. What did you want to accomplish today? Think about your values. Write everything down! Perfection is not the aim, so if you’re struggling to keep up with your thoughts, think slower (or write faster).
Finally, as you finish, look toward the future. What are you going to do differently tomorrow? This week? This year? What are you going to do the same? Write it all down. If you run out of paper, buy another notebook.
I like to close by writing down the prayer of St. Ephrem:
Lord and Master of my life, cast away from me the spirit of laziness, idle curiosity, love of power & vain talk.
But grant me, Your servant, the spirit of moderation, humility, patience, and love.
Yes, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brothers and sisters.
For You are blessed forever. Amen.
I had no idea what I was doing when I started journaling months ago. I held close the spirit of Fr. Thomas Hopko’s words: “When you fall, get up immediately and start over.” Or, as Alfred said to Batman: “Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Journaling helped me persevere through tough times and celebrate great times. Pausing to “be still” reminded me to glorify God, give thanks to Him, and face towards Christ once again.
As we remember this year’s Lenten season and celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, reflection becomes crucial if we want to move forward in our faith. We must look back and carefully consider our failures and successes. Then, tomorrow will be better than yesterday, and next year will be better than the last.
OCF Northeast Regional Student Leader
George Powell is from Tyngsborough MA, or Boston if you have never heard of Tyngsborough. A sophomore at Wentworth Institute of Technology, he studies Computer Science with a minor in Writing, Editing, and Publishing. He humbly served as the Northeast Regional Student Leader for OCF in 2020-2021. His favorite hobbies include sleeping and playing Chess, but not at the same time. He dreams of one day being fluent in Spanish. Talk to him on Discord: https://discord.gg/uWT4eqd