Photo credits to Katie Moretta
When striving for spiritual betterment it is common for me to find myself having a quantity over quality approach to my prayer life. I start to think that if I can just add more and more prayers to my daily repertoire, somehow I will just feel holier and closer to The Almighty. Though there are definitely benefits to seeking more prayer time and persevering in prayer without emotional consolation, there is something incredibly valuable and necessary about having an intentional prayer life- that is, intentionality not only when we pray, but also when we choose not to.
For those of us growing up in Catholic circles, it is very common to hear "God knows our heart." Seeking to actively apply that knowledge to our prayer life is extremely important because it forces us to discern the ways that God is calling us to himself.
If I am someone who struggles with self-esteem (as I am) that means that I am seeking out prayers that will allow God to speak his love and acceptance into my heart. If I am someone who struggles with gratefulness then finding concrete ways to bring my joys to God in a way that is sustainable and will eventually become a habit (get it? Habit. LOL) is a calling for me. In being aware of the deficits within my heart, I’m able to see the broken pieces that are hindering a more complete relationship with God from forming and in turn, work to compensate for those struggles of mine.
Routine is important, and I need that to be a part of my prayer life in order for me to structure my day. As I am someone who finds spontaneity rather stressful, not setting aside set times for prayer leaves me feeling like I’ve lost connection with my Father in Heaven. I need that grounding in order to develop a full relationship with God. He knows that and so he calls me to a life of scheduled prayer.
At the same time, because I find spontaneity difficult, I’ve discerned that God is also calling me to a greater spirit of abandonment to His will through the flexes within my day-to-day schedule. This is important because if and when changes happen- like moving back to school, waking up late, or having an unexpected task arise- I’m not crippled by my schedule but am able to adapt and maintain my relationship with my Father. I’m able to see that yes, I am good at routine so I must cultivate that skill, but also that I need to work to develop a spirit of trust in my Father- trust even when His plan doesn’t go according to my plan.
Remembering our daily vocation is another thing that challenges the quantity over quality approach to prayer. If I rely simply on my ability to do everything I possibly can in prayer within a 24h period then I will likely fall away from the tasks I’m called to perform within my day. I have heard this calling termed the ‘little v vocation.’ It means that though yes, God calls us to direct prayer with Him during the day, He has also placed us where we are for a reason. If I am a student, my ‘little v vocation’ is to study, be a part of my community etc. If I am a parent and a spouse it is to attend to my spouse and my children and ultimately lead them to heaven. Though God would love if I prayed ten rosaries a day, if I am not fulfilling the calling that accompanies my situation in life, I am not truly being attentive to where God is sending me.
We are called to be in the world but not of the world. So, awareness of the tasks the Heavenly Father is placing before us is too a form of devotion and prayer, so long as we do it for His Glory; and at the same time, we're also called to nurture a healthy prayer life where we can be attentive to the needs of our hearts and our own call to Christ in the midst of the struggles and tasks of the world.
I am called to prayer, I am also called to service, and if I nurture those two identities well, I will ultimately be equipped to follow my true call: my call to heaven.