I just talked with my priest about deepening my prayer life, and he gave me some good advice. He said I should put myself on a schedule for a week at a time, and evaluate at the end of the week how well it worked. So, I am working out that schedule as we speak. I’ve gathered several ideas from both Catholic and non-Catholic sources. Here are a few things worth trying:
*My priest mentioned that a dedicated space for personal prayer works great for a lot of people. I have a prayer space with a black & white photo of a crucifix in a jeweled frame, a holder for tealights, a bowl for monetary offerings that I later take to church, family pictures, and a box for sacred bits & bobs including a rosary. Some folks are uncomfortable calling theirs an “altar,” including myself. I call it a “prayer space” or “sacred space.” My blog, integritysabitch.blogspot.com, has entries and pictures from setting up this space.
*I saw an article on improving one’s meditation practice that said “wake, pee, meditate.” That means to spend time meditating (or in my case, in prayer) before doing anything else in the morning. This would be a good time to do a rosary. If spend 20 minutes on prayer before anything else, that means you’ll always “get around to it” no matter what the day holds.
*I also find it difficult to concentrate at times (depression/anxiety), so short spontaneous prayers throughout the day work better for me than long prayer sessions. Try catching yourself whenever you feel worried, anxious, annoyed, bored, etc. and offering it up.
*Pray when you’re waiting for things–the doctor’s office, the grocery line, the DMV, etc. Since you’re very interested in the rosary, you may want to have one that you keep in your purse for this purpose. It can be a single decade rosary or a rosary ring or bracelet if you think it would be weird pulling out a big string of beads in line at the grocery. You can also use simpler, shorter prayers or just pray spontaneously. When my 10-year-old son says he’s bored, I’ve taken to telling him “tell God you’re bored and ask Him what you should be doing.”
*Pray with other people, especially your husband and children if you have any. It sounds like your mother in law would also be a good choice. Join a prayer or rosary group in your community. If there’s not one, start one. This can help your feelings of being alone, and it will provide you with a schedule.
*A Bahai friend of mine has a “shower prayer” that struck me as interesting. As she washes her face, she prays to see the face of God in everyone she meets. As she washes her hands, she prays that she will be useful in God’s work. And it goes on. The point is that you can and should pray in any place at any time. I sing hymns in the shower.
*Keep a prayer journal. I keep holy cards, printouts of prayers, and a notebook for my intentions and reflections in a binder in my prayer space. I also write out my examination of conscience and take it with me to confession.
*Receive the sacraments of reconciliation and eucharist as often as you can. I’m aiming for twice monthly confession and I would like to add weekday mass at least once or twice a week. People also get a lot out of adoration, and I’m embarassed to admit I’ve never been, but I would like to check it out.
It’s awesome that you’re so “into” the rosary. I get a lot out of it, especially the luminous mysteries suggested by JPII. I think it’s a great idea to put your headphones on in bed and to listen to it in your car, but I should say that I think driving precludes the necessary meditative component. Carve out some time at home, even if you just do the rosary a decade at a time. Make sure you also engage in prayer outside the rosary. www.beginningcatholic.com and www.catholicdoors.com have some great resources for prayer.
Keep us updated on how you’re doing!