You have a list of to-dos a mile long and putting prayer on it just adds to your stress!  By the end of this small entry, you’ll find out that prayer is your number one fast track to more joy.  Joy definitely is worth hurrying to get more of it into life, right? Find out why slowing down for prayer can hurry the entry of true joy below and share your experiences with prayer leading to joy in the comments.  So does adding a disciplined time for prayer increase stress? Pope Francis set the world straight recently – prayer is not about stress relief! Prayer is about communing with God, who made you and loves you more than any other being in your life.  Love, although it lessens stress, is infinitely more to us than simple stress relief!

Here are some suggestions to help you add prayer and increase your joy.  First, set a time and a place you will go to and spend time with God. The place can be as simple as a chair and a table with a Bible right there to read.

It does not have to be fancy. It is great if you can have a sacred corner with a crucifix and any other sacred images of Our Mother, Mary, or Saint Michael the Archangel, or any relics of saints you may have and a candle to light.  Keep it as simple as you need it to be and laugh at the devil’s suggestions that it needs to be complicated.  Our God is a God of simplicity who accepts even our good intentions in addition to our good deeds. He also lets you set the time, and if you have doubts about how much time, start with a simple five minutes.  Pick a time you know you can do without getting discouraged. The important thing is to be able to stick to prayer on an everyday basis. Even on vacation! On to the next!

Second, find a way of prayer that works for you.  Some people start with the sign of the Cross, the St. Michael Archangel prayer, or a prayer asking their Guardian Angel to be with them.  Some make a morning offering.  Some may read a verse in the Bible (here’s a Catholic website that does a verse each day and a meditation to accompany it), either at random or according to a Bible reading plan.  A favorite way is to pick one of the 4 Gospels and read one verse (it’s hard to stop, even though we know what happened!), and then sit and think about that one verse until your time is up for that prayer session. For the ancient, proven way to do this see this description of Lectio Divina.  Other people pray one decade of the Rosary, while yet others pray either 5 or 20 decades of it!  Still others may not pray the Rosary, and choose to spend time reading books written by past saints (each has a link to a free resource) (St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Pope John Paul II), or current holy people, such as Dan Burke, Bishop Robert Barron, Scott Hahn, Matthew Kelly, Jennifer Fulwiler, Connie Rossini . . you get the picture, right? A wonderful app that provides much of this type of content all in one place is called Laudate.   

Other people find that they must start with some sort of writing, drawing or coloring just to get into silence and get themselves to pay attention to any holy words, so they can learn about God, hear His voice and eventually, talk back to Him.  When one chooses to write, dedicate the time to the Holy Spirit.  Ask His inspiration.  Do the same if you choose to draw or color.  As far as drawing, any subject matter that is a praise to God for beauty works to take you close to Him.  Blind contour line is particularly effective as you are free from looking at the paper, and cannot criticize your own drawing!  This video explains how.  In case you simply prefer reading:  Pick any object that has lots of curves or details, such as a seashell, or a sponge, or even a leaf.  Or use the painting that illustrates this post. Then draw its outside edge as slowly as you can, looking only at the edge (may need to put a shield around your pen or pencil – any stiff paper will work – from a fancy chocolate bar wrapper to a paper plate – no peeking), and moving your pencil or pen super slow along with your super slow eye motion.  Keep your focus on moving your eye and hand together. Think of a bible verse as you do this and praise God for the wonder of your vision and coordination! If you are coloring, some suggestions are here in YouTube video, and in a FB Group post live video made for the Art2Pray group.  A proven method is using tiny circles to color instead of the traditional fill it all in method.  As you make a circle going clockwise you can say to yourself, “God is the Alpha”, and counterclockwise, “God is the Omega”.  (or: God is the beginning – God is the End). You will find that His peace will fill your soul. This works by occupying your brain with tracking your hand motion – clockwise/counterclockwise and your tongue’s motion – speaking.  

You might substitute words with more meaning for you such eternal/loving, or here/now.  What we say is truly powerful! As St. Faustina says in her Diary (Paragraph 92) “The soul will not attain sanctity if it does not keep watch over the tongue.  One of the most effective ways to keep watch over that most impulsive member of our bodies is to train it by repeating what we would like it to say. Think of it as a concentrated mini role play.  Sometimes, you could choose words to help you with a problem. For example, if you find yourself losing patience with repeated questions (think Moms and people caring for those with dementia!): Answer/kindly.  For those dealing with family members who are losing hearing or have dementia (or teenagers dealing with parents!): Repeat/Peacefully. For those dealing with bodily temptations: My body is a temple/ of the Holy Spirit.  Many scripture verses work: 1 Peter 5:7 – Cast your cares upon the Lord/He cares for you. This discipline working with your mind, hands and tongue will help you thrive through difficult situations instead of simply surviving them.  The feeling of controlling one’s tongue and doing the right thing when it is hard to do the right thing will give you a joy unlike any other. It is just plain FUN to do the right thing, and when you have trained for it and it happens, WOW!  You turn into a bright blazing light, a shining knight in God’s army, in your own little soul! Offer that success to God, for it is His! You just did your little part by training and He filled you up with His graces as you trained to let you put His good works into action.  Now you know how prayer can give you more joy in less time and of a type that lasts longer than any other! Again, please feel free to share your stories of joy below in comments. I will happily respond!

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