For most of the past four years, I’ve had a familiar daily work routine: prepare for work (and by that I mean stress about work), commute to and from work, cook dinner, slip in a workout here and there, get errands done, study for the GMAT and try to be in bed by midnight to do it all over the next day.
It didn’t feel like there was enough time throughout the day for me to pray, except for my short routine of praying right before bed. I was frustrated enough to try something new, so I decided to try and incorporate prayer at different times throughout the day and while I was at it, I figured I would also try to learn different types of prayer. After trying this for a few months, I realized it ended up transforming my day in three unexpected ways:
1. I am more thankful and appreciative
There was a Sunday about a year ago when the priest at Mass brought up Luke 9:26 during the homily in which Jesus says “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” For some reason, I forgot the rest of the homily, but that passage stuck with me. Around that time, I had visited a family friends house and they said grace before the meal. At my home we would say grace typically around a large meal such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, but not really on any sort of regular basis. That coming Monday at work with that homily in mind, I decided to not be afraid to pray in public. I did the sign of the cross during lunch and prayed to myself: “Bless me o Lord and these thy gifts which I am about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen.”
Taking the time to pause before eating and just say “thank you” was unexpectedly powerful. I realized that I was guilty of scarfing down food many times so I could get back to what I was doing. By taking an extra moment before I ate, I felt more engaged in the meal and enjoyed it more. After incorporating it before breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I started to feel more appreciative of not only food but other smaller things in general. I also noticed it was a form of “contagious appreciation.” On one occasion, a coworker noticed me praying and commented on how he had started incorporating it into his routine as well after seeing me doing it regularly. My family too started doing it religiously (pun intended) before each meal. I’ve found that it was a great way to keep the Lord in mind throughout the day, and it’s an easy habit to build.
2. I have a stronger memory
I don’t have the best memory, so when I started incorporating the Examen before bed, it was a wakeup call. The Examen is a type of prayer that walks you through your day through guided reflection. It prompts you to reflect on what went well, what didn’t go so well and to ask God to help you through your next day. It is a structured way to remember the important moments of the day, which to me has been incredible in helping me refresh my memory, but it has also allowed me to relive joyous moments throughout the day.
Recently, I came back home from the summer and hugged my mom when she picked me up at the airport. That night when I prayed the Examen, that moment came back to me, which easily could have been something that was enjoyed but quickly forgotten. But I remembered the love that came with that moment and got to re-experience the joy that came with it.
3. I feel less stressed and more present during the day
As I mentioned above, the stress of the day-to-day was getting the better of me at a pretty young age. I only realize now that a lot of it was self-imposed stress, trying to achieve more and more while taking fewer and fewer breaks. One way that helped me slow down was prayer. By taking time out of the day, I at first felt even more anxious because I had “lost” those 15 minutes by trying to pray. However, what I found was that I was more productive throughout the rest of the day than if I hadn’t stopped. The act of stopping and reflecting is so important, especially in this day and age when we want everything to happen instantaneously.
I started by praying the “Calm” praylist within Hallow that offers a mix of prayer techniques throughout eight prayer sessions. One type of prayer available is called Christian Meditation. It focuses on helping you connect with God through silence. After a few sessions, I realized just how uncomfortable I was with silence, but by trying every day, I have been able to grow past that. Now, instead of playing another song or podcast during my commute or while I am waiting in line to board my flight, I actually enjoy sitting in silence. Finding God in those moments has helped me feel more at ease throughout the day.
There isn’t a one size fits all approach to incorporating prayer into your life, but for me, these three things helped me to deepen my relationship with my faith while also helping me find peace along the way. I hope you can take a crack at trying at least one!