How to Pray/My Prayer Staying Holy: A School Year Game Plan by Faith Noah So you figured out your summer prayer plan. No issues, right? You crushed it, didn’t you? Well…ok, I know it’s not necessarily that easy. But whether you did indeed crush it or not, or if you’ve never had a prayer plan set in place before, the school year is starting up again, and that means it’s a great time to adjust those prayer plans around your schedule. Maybe you function better without the busy-ness of the school year, or maybe a hectic schedule is exactly what you need to get motivated. Regardless, whip out those new ink pens: it’s game (plan) time. 1. Recap, Reflect, Reconsider What were some of the focuses of your prayer last school year? How did you grow? What about this summer? Identify the places where you were strengthened in your relationship with God, and where you were lacking. These reflections can help ground you in how best to go forward, and reveal what goals will keep you moving toward spiritual growth. Say, for example, that this summer you really grew in your understanding of the Mass. Then ask yourself: how can I take this further into the school year? How can I more actively participate in the Mystery God is revealing to me? Perhaps you can volunteer to altar serve, lector, or serve as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. If possible, maybe you can make it out to daily Mass. Keeping in mind your practical limitations and availability, take a leap of faith and commit to growing even more. Alternatively, say you really struggled thinking about God during your day-to-day. How, then, can you change your prayer routine to avoid making the same mistake? How can you make Him a part of every second, and not just an hour on Sunday? Consider adopting some new habits, such as praying on your way to class, stopping by a chapel during your free time, or incorporating Him into your daily schedule with Liturgy of the Hours, for example. No matter your strengths or weaknesses, a new school year means a fresh start to adapt and grow. Our relationship with God is always evolving, so shouldn’t our prayer lives do the same? 2. AMDG I don’t know about you, but I always struggle with knowing how much prayer is too much. Of course, there’s no really such thing as too much prayer…but that doesn’t necessarily mean God wants us skipping class to pray. It’s always a balance between our vocations as students and our calling to commune with the Lord. So as you prepare a prayer plan, be reasonable. Don’t overbook yourself and don’t abandon your responsibilities to get in an extra rosary. But at the same time, know that being with the Lord is more important than anything else we can do during the day. If you’re understandably confused by this advice, let me offer the best of both worlds: AMDG. The Jesuit phrase Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam means “all for the greater glory of God.” So consider this: whatever you’re doing, whatever your responsibilities are, do it with the Lord. Do it for the Lord. Then, guess what? You’ve found the loophole to the prayer conundrum. Anything—any task, any conversation, and homework assignment—can become prayer, if it is offered for the Lord, out of love. God put you where you are for a reason, so be assured that whatever you do can be done for His glory. 3. Take Advantage of Structured Routine My college chaplain used to say, “Take care of order, and order will take care of you.” Keeping a routine is tough to do, but it can work wonders for our spiritual lives. Just look at priests and religious, whose lives are shaped around the daily recitation of the Divine Office. Their commitment breeds discipline and deepens their love for the Lord. Even though you may not live in a religious community, take advantage of your schedule. Whether you’re a high schooler or college student, your day-to-day is pretty set in stone. Use this routine to incorporate regular prayer: before school, after practice, during free period, after your lunch break, etc. Set out a specific time each day you want to commit to prayer, and think about how and where you are going to make it happen; write it in your planner, set a reminder on your phone, whatever it takes to make sure you don’t forget. If you commit to that time of prayer, it will eventually become a necessary part of your day. That habit will help make speaking with the Lord second nature. And the best part? The more you pray, the deeper your capacity to pray. Instead of wasting time or exhausting your efforts, regular prayer frees you to give more of yourself, more frequently. A holy 15 minutes can soon become a holy hour, and a brief conversation with Christ can transform into a running dialogue that lasts all day. Time spent in prayer is never wasted, so keep that in mind as you set aside a regular time to pray. 4. Pick a Patron Saints are awesome. Their witness and courage gives a great example for us to follow. It’s funny how God often puts just the right saints in our hearts just when we need them. So, as you go into this school year, be attentive for a saint who has been speaking to you recently. How do you relate to them? What can you learn from their life? Pick a patron to motivate your goals this year. It’s not a binding contract or anything, but just something to help remind you of who you are trying to become: a saint. Here are some ideas, along with a few phrases to remember them by: St. John Paul the Great: “Totus Tuus,” JP2’s papal motto, is a great motto to live by. It means “totally yours,” and points us to total gift of self to Jesus Christ through Mary, who gave her whole body and will to the Lord. Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati: “Verso l’alto.” Frassati, a student himself, always sought the heights of God’s Kingdom, especially through his outreach to the poor and sick. He was a fun-loving, normal Christian who wasn’t afraid to give up comfort for those in need. St. Joan of Arc: “I am not afraid; I was born to do this.” This saint was a bold witness of courage and trust in the Lord. Like her, we can venture forward with confidence in God’s guiding hand, no matter what difficulties we face. St. Dominic: “To contemplate, and to share with others the fruits of our contemplation.” This is the motto of the Dominican order, which can really resonate with students seeking a higher purpose to their studies. Like St. Dominic, we can let our intellect lead us deeper into God’s love. The Blessed Virgin: “Let it be done unto me according to Thy Word.” Her fiat changes everything. Following her example, we can forget ourselves and let God act through us to accomplish His will. Reading about a saint, or asking for his/her intercession, can work wonders to strengthen your resolve on the quest for holiness. 5). Make Disciples We are not called to keep the Good News to ourselves. If you find your prayer plan is changing you and you’re growing closer to Jesus through it (and if it’s not, maybe it’s time for some revision), then don’t stop there! Keep being letting Jesus be poured into you until you find yourself full enough to pour Him out to others. Share the fruits of your prayer and commitment. Help a friend commit to more prayer, or intercede for them in your prayers. The Mystical Body of Christ is united in our struggles and in our successes. So know that, as you prepare to fix your eyes on Christ this school year, you’re not alone. I am praying for you, as is the cloud of witnesses in heaven and on earth!