How to Pray/My Prayer Take Prayer Personally by Avera Maria Santo Prayer didn’t play a very big role in my life until I hit my early 20s. Going to Catholic school through high school helped me learn how to recite everything at Mass, as well as the words to all the formal prayers like the Hail Mary and the Our Father; but still, I wasn’t really sure how to truly pray from the heart. I knew that I wanted to develop a personal prayer life. I mean, I’d heard that Padre Pio “Prayer is the oxygen of the soul,” quote enough times to be interested… But I just didn’t know how to start! I’m 21 years old and although my prayer life has definitely deepened and grown since high school, I received some advice a few weeks ago from a very holy priest that transformed how I think about prayer, and more specifically, how I relate to both Jesus and Mary. When I sat down with this priest, one of the things that I asked him was how to go about praying the rosary. I really admire Mary and truly did desire to grow closer to her, but the rosary was extremely difficult for me to pray. Making Mary Personal “Well, what do you admire about Mary?” the priest asked. This made me think. Sometimes, because we know Jesus and Mary to be these beings up in heaven, we forget that they were both human, that they’ve experienced what I’ve experienced, know how I feel, and can enter into my personal reality. He went on to say, “It may help you to reflect on a particular virtue of Mary as you pray the mysteries of the rosary.” Prior to my meeting, I’d actually heard a couple of my girlfriends talking about this and how beneficial it was for their prayer. They talked about how it made Mary seem so much more relatable, so much more human. At the same time, though, it gave them a model to follow, a model of humanity totally fulfilled, a model they wanted to mirror in their own lives. After hearing father mention it, I just knew I had to try it. There are a number of ways to enter into this type of personal reflection. For example, let’s say you admire our lady’s femininity. When you’re meditating on the Crucifixion, ask her what it was like to be a woman at the foot of the cross. If you’re meditating on the Annunciation from the joyful mysteries, you can ask her what it was like to be a woman facing such a call at that time in her life. Making Jesus Personal The remarkable thing about this type of personal prayer is that it doesn’t just apply to Mary — we can enter into this type of prayer with God Himself in the person of Jesus. We can relate to Him on a personal level, by reflecting on particular aspects of who He is, in order to grow in love with Him through prayer. There was a period of time during which I wondered if I would ever be married. During that time, I loved to reflect on Jesus as Christ the Bridegroom, the one true love of my heart. It helped me not to be so consumed with finding a husband and rather, seek complete satisfaction from the love of the divine Bridegroom. The really wonderful thing about making our prayer personal is that God can use it to enter into our lives in a personal way. At this time in my life, I love to look at Christ as Emmaunuel, “God is with us.” God is truly present among us! I’ve entered into deep reflection on this, especially through the gift of Adoration — Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist. That’s what speaks the loudest to me in my life right now and God is using it to speak to me personally. God desires a personal relationship with us. This means that He intends to connect with us in a personal and real way. God reaches down to us in our unique humanity and calls us into His divine life in a way that’s accessible to each of us through prayer! Never be afraid to approach God with whatever you’re experiencing. Your prayers don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be prayed. For more on how to grow in a personal prayer life, check out My Encounter: Finding Jesus in Prayer.