How to Pray/My Prayer Just Keep Climbing by Peter Alexander Our spiritual journey to Heaven is like climbing a set of stairs. Sometimes we climb the steps quickly with ease. And sometimes the battle is hard and the steps are big and slow. Sometimes we may fall down a couple steps. Sometimes it feels like we just can’t make it any farther up the stairs and we’re stuck on the landing. We’re flatlined. Sometimes it feels like we’ve fallen down the stairs and can’t get up. We’re stuck on the basement floor. We’re bottomed-out. What do your steps look like right now? Well, no matter where you are on your spiritual journey, here are three tips on how to jump-start your spiritual life, get back on those steps, and persevere on the path leading to the narrow gate of Heaven (Hebrews 1:12, Matthew 7:13). 1. MIX IT UP It’s easy to make an awesome plan for your prayer life when you’re on a spiritual high. At one point, my plan was to focus on contemplative prayer, committing a certain amount of time every day to just sitting with Jesus. For a while, this prayer plan was really successful. But eventually, I flatlined. I didn’t feel as though I was progressing spiritually anymore and was having trouble continuing to contemplate. However, rather than get frustrated in my own prayer failure, I decided to remain positive, mix it up, and try something new. (CCC 2707, YouCat #504) In 2013, Pope Francis proposed that we should seek newness in our relationship with God and let Him surprise us (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:4). “Whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness that actually brings fulfillment, that gives true joy… Let us ask ourselves today: are we open to God’s surprises?” Are you open to God’s surprises? Here’s something to try: rather than getting frustrated when our current method of prayer seems to be less effective than it was a week ago, why don’t we mix it up a little? Let God surprise you with newness! Here’s some fresh ideas for you to try: Lectio Divina: Immersed in the Word An Illustrated Guide to Praying Lectio Divina Contemplation: Experience God in Beauty Silently sitting and encountering the beauty of God is a form of prayer known as contemplation. The Catechism on Contemplation: CCC 2709-2719 Marian Consecration: One of the greatest decisions you will make in your entire life! Good places to start exploring and begin your own devotion to Jesus through Mary: “33 Days to Morning Glory” by Fr. Michael Gaitley Why Marian Consecration? 2. SHIFT YOUR FOCUS It’s really easy to feel like successful Christians when we are victoriously overcoming habitual sins in our lives. But what if I’m not experiencing one of those victories right now? What if I can’t seem to quite break free from sin? Or what if I don’t have any big sin in my life to be victorious over? Am I out of luck? NO! Overcoming sin is not the only way to be victorious in our spiritual life. If you feel like you aren’t making any progress up the stairs when you look at how you are overcoming the sin (or lack-there-of) in your life, shift your focus! Rather than judge your spiritual growth on the decrease of bad things in your life, shift your focus and look at the increase of good things! Here’s the simple tip: Start doing things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, and excellent (Philippians 4:8-9)! Here are some questions to help you with ideas: What small things can I start doing to help love and serve my family more? (Hint: Voluntarily doing the dishes is a huge spiritual victory.) How am I showing my friends the love of Christ? Can I do more to build my friends up as Christians? How can I bring true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, and excellent things into my community? 3. STOP TRYING This may sound weird, but, really, stop trying so hard. The truth is, it is “by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Without the grace of God that we receive in the Sacraments and through the Holy Spirit, we are powerless. We can try and try and try but in the end, our spiritual progress is not of our own doing, it is the gift of God. He has prepared His works for us. We just need to surrender enough to walk in them. Sometimes, all we need is to admit we are powerless to climb any further and this allows the grace of God to carry us to unimaginable heights. St. Therese of Lisieux describes this surrender as the “little way to Heaven, the way of spiritual childhood, the way of trust and absolute surrender.” Here are some resources to learn more about the “little way”: About the Little Flower “The Story of a Soul” Autobiography of St. Therese “The St. Therese of Lisieux Prayer Book” – Vinita Hampton Wright COME HOLY SPIRIT Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s mix it up! Let’s shift our focus! and let’s surrender more to the grace of God so we can get back on those stairs and get to Jesus in Heaven! Come Holy Spirit! Feature Image via Flickr, CC 2.0, with logo added.