Ways to pray during Lent

By Effie Caldarola

Catholic News Service

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

   These words are from Scripture, in 1 Samuel, Chapter 3. The young boy Samuel, the future prophet, awakens the aged Eli because he thinks he has been called by him. But Eli recognizes that it is God calling Samuel. When it happens again, Eli says, tell the Lord you are listening.

   In a very real sense, these are words we are all called to speak during Lent. During this season when we come close to the suffering Jesus, we desire to let the Lord know we are listening. This listening is called prayer.

   During Lent, Catholics are challenged to embrace the season’s three “pillars” — prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. A pillar supports something, and in this case, the three pillars, taken together, support a strong Lent, worthy of our call to renewal, repentance and growth.

   Keep in mind that just as a three-legged stool collapses if one leg is taken away, so our Lent is not sturdy without an integration of these three principles of growth. Prayer is integral to a good Lent.

   Sometimes, we mistakenly think of prayer as recitation, as somehow scripted for us. In reality, prayer is a relationship. Like Samuel, we are being called into dialogue with God. It is, in the words of the poet Mary Oliver, “a silence in which another voice may speak.”

   Most of us yearn for a deepening prayer life, and Lent, with its focused 40 days, provides a great opportunity.

   There are many forms of prayer and no one “best” way to pray. People often pray in different ways at different times in their lives.

   But a good first step is a commitment to a time and place. Prayer may seem ethereal and other worldly, but the reality is we need a practical, down-to-earth commitment, a real space, an actual time. We all have moments when we are moved to prayer. It’s how we bring that movement into our busy lives that counts.

   Choose a time and stick to it. For busy parents, it may have to be early morning before others arise or the half-hour after kids are in bed. Maybe it’s a few minutes at lunchtime or a few minutes of quiet meditation after early morning Mass.

   Place is also important. Find a peaceful, quiet place with no distractions. Perhaps consecrate your special place with a medal, rosary or holy card, or light a special candle.

   Don’t set yourself up for failure by overcommitting to time. Choose a realistic time period that’s doable for you.

   But how to pray? How to find God’s voice inside our noisy minds and busy schedules? How to quiet down and listen?

   “Lectio divina” is an ancient form of prayer that’s accessible to all. The church provides daily Scripture readings that can be the gateway to prayer.

   Choose a daily reading and go through it slowly. Pause and recall a word or phrase that particularly speaks to you. Spend time reflecting on what moves you. Then slowly read the entire text again to put the phrase into context and explore deeper meaning.