Blog/CYM Blog

Saturated in Prayer

Sunday after our second Life Night of the school year, I was talking to a fellow youth minister in my diocese. He asked how things were going so far. I told him that everything was going so well and that I was feeling really good about the year. He responded by reminding me this was probably the fruit of the personal commitment to prayer I had made.

I often talk to fellow youth ministers about “saturating” ministry with prayer. We are constantly challenged to pray if we desire strong ministry. And I could write pages of testimonies about the power of prayer.

The bottom line is we have to put our own growth and striving in holiness foremost and let our work in youth ministry follow and flow from it. Prayer, together with receiving the sacraments, is central to successful ministry. Or, better yet, as St. Augustine said: “Pray as if everything depended on God. Work as if everything depended on you.”

TWO COMPONENTS OF PRAYER

Three years ago, something was missing from my prayer life. I was praying with frequency and a decent level of discipline. But I believe I was missing two key components:

  • Separating personal prayer from prayer for ministry
  • Intentionality

What I mean by that first point is that it can be so difficult to separate ministry from personal life when it comes to prayer. For me, I was so used to praying for ministry, that I forgot about my own needs. But prayer isn’t just about needs. It’s about getting to know Christ and letting Him into our hearts. While I did this occasionally, it was inconsistent. And it made discernment very cloudy.

The second component — intentionality — can be tricky. Let me share how I’ve made prayer intentional. One of the main tools has been Liturgy of the Hours. I’ve made the decision to make this a central component of my prayer life, and so three times per day, I stop to pray: Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer. This discipline helps me center my prayer, my day, and my heart. It creates rhythm. Modern technology has made this much easier to do (my favorite app for Liturgy of the Hours is iBreviary by Pro Terra Sancta).

THE BENEFITS

I cannot say enough about the benefits of praying Liturgy of the Hours (also referred to as Divine Office). Priests commit to praying it everyday as part of their work, and, as a lay minister, I find it beneficial to make it part of my “office” work as well (whether I pray at my desk or in the chapel).

The psalms and readings are very appropriate for those in the front lines of ministry. During the petitions portion, I spend a lot of time praying for the intentions of fellow youth ministers, friends, teens, family, staff, the Church, and my own needs. This brings great blessing to my life and the parish youth ministry.

There are many potential components to a prayer routine, and I encourage you to find what will work for you:

  • Liturgy of the Hours
  • Daily Mass as often as possible (my hope is go everyday)
  • 30 minutes before the Blessed Sacrament (with a full Holy Hour once per week – I encourage you to join the Life Teen family on Thursdays at 2 p.m. Eastern)
  • Rosary and devotion to Mary (daily rosary is great – I sometime just pray a decade here and there throughout the day, asking for intercession)
  • Journaling during prayer
  • Imploring the intercession of particular saints, your guardian angel, and St. Michael
  • Times when contemplation and intentions are directly about personal life and not “ministry”
  • Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis

SPIRIT-LED DISCERNMENT

In all of this, there is a constant sense of discernment. This allows the Holy Spirit to create the path before us in ways small and large. I specifically mentioned journaling above because it helps track what the Holy Spirit is speaking to me.

I usually divide this journaling into three sections. One page is just for the distractions (unpaid bills, event ideas, “to do” items, etc.). I write those down right away, then go back into focusing on Jesus. Another page is for everything I feel the Lord is putting on my heart for my own life. Then, the third page is for whatever God is speaking to me about ministry.

When it really comes down to it, even simple moments, such as stopping and kneeling before the tabernacle instead of going straight to the parish office, make a big difference. For me, it is ultimately about putting God first and knowing that the ministry He has entrusted to me is for His glory and not my own. And knowing I can’t lose sight of my own salvation in the midst of evangelizing others.

About the Author

Chris Epplett

Chris lives in Plymouth, MI. He used to own a dog, but the dog found a better home. Chris is a life-long Catholic who attended an active Life Teen program in high school. He enjoys writing, running and the Detroit Lions. He does not like mayonnaise, gout or bad drivers. He is the high school youth minister at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, MI. Chris has lived in Michigan his entire life, lovingly pointing to various spots on his hand, aka the Mitten. To connect with Chris, email him at cepplett@gmail.com.