16 Practical Tips for Creating & Maintaining Your Daily Prayer Habit

Prayer is such a crucial part of the faithful practice of Catholicism but many of us struggle, at least at one time or another, to keep a regular prayer life. Maybe we’re busy in school, busy raising a family, busy at work, or even all of those at the same time, and find that somehow prayer seems too often to slip through the cracks. To help you keep prayer a regular part of your daily life we offer these practical tips which have helped us pray more regularly.

Listers, many of the most-read lists we’ve published are prayer focused: the best prayers to say before bed, really short prayers to say throughout the day, or even prayers recommended by an exorcist to fight evil, and of course the Latin prayers we should all know. We’ve also covered questions about prayer like why prayers aren’t always answered, and much, much more. This shouldn’t be surprising since prayer is such a crucial part of the faithful practice of Catholicism. However most of us also struggle, at least at one time or another, to keep a regular prayer life. Maybe you’re busy in school, busy raising a family, busy at work, or even all of those at the same time, and find that somehow prayer seems too often to slip through the cracks. To help you keep prayer a regular part of your daily life we offer these practical tips which have helped us pray more regularly. Of course, if you have tips to share please do so in the comments and we’ll highlight the best.


Use your iPhone to remind you of prayer

1. Use your Phone

Every smartphone has both built-in and third-party apps for reminders. Use the “repeat” function to set daily reminders to pray. If you are the kind of person who uses your calendar for planning out your tasks for the day, schedule time for prayer. Pictured above, the fantastic Due app for iOS is a great choice for iPhone users.

2. Be Specific

When you schedule prayer on your calendar, or add it to your to do list, don’t just say “Pray” but rather be specific and say something like “Pray the Rosary” or “Pray the Hail Holy Queen”. This removes what psychologists call decision avoidance, or what the rest of us call putting something off because it’s too hard to decide what to do. The whole point of a reminder is so that you don’t have to decide when to pray, add some specificity and you won’t have to decide what to pray in the moment either. Of course, once you’ve said your prayer you can add extemporaneous, or other prayers as you wish. This is just a way to help get things started.

 

Frame a prayer and place it somewhere visible

3. Place a framed prayer in plain sight

Often we just think about whatever is in front of us, so put some prayers in plain sight by writing them out, and framing them. Then you can hang them on the wall, or use the frames’ built-in stand to place them on a flat surface. Some good spots to consider might be near the sink in your kitchen, on your desk, on your nightstand, by the sink in your bathroom, on a bookcase you walk by frequently, or on a hall or entryway table.

 

Ave Maria written on bathroom mirror

EXPO Dry-Erase marker

4. No frame? Write a prayer on your bathroom mirror

As a convert there are many beautiful prayers from tradition which I do not know by heart and need to see over and over to remember, this simple tip is how I learned to pray the Memorare and made sure I saw it every day: Take a dry-erase marker and copy the prayer right onto the mirror in your bathroom. Now, every time you brush your teeth you can say a prayer. Bonus: Pick a long enough prayer and it’s a good way to make sure you’re brushing as much as you ought to.

 

Morning Prayer reminder on iPhone

5. Turn your morning alarm into a reminder to pray

If you use your phone to wake up in the morning, and it has the ability to edit the name of the alarm, change it to something like “Get up! Offer the day to God.” or “Good morning! Thank God for it!”

 

Modest Catholic home prayer shelf

6. Make a place for prayer

We’ve written about home altars before, and they’re a great option for making a dedicated space for prayer. Maybe your current situation does not allow for something very elaborate, that is ok. A simple cloth napkin with a small crucifix, perhaps some prayer cards and a tea light candle can be a dignified, if diminutive prayer corner. Having a dedicated space will be a reminder of, and an invitation to prayer whenever you see it.

 

Use Catholic Holy Cards as Bookmarks

7. Use prayers or holy cards as bookmarks

This is particularly useful for students: keep your place in books with prayers or holy cards and before you start reading pause to pray. Some Saints’ cards you might consider are St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, especially when studying, St. Josemaria, and St. Joseph the Worker for your business reading.

8. Change your wallpaper

You know that giant background on your computer, iPad, or phone? You can change that. Consider finding an image that reminds you of prayer, or even using a free website or app to add a simple prayer to your favorite image. Some of these really short prayers might work well.

 

 

desktop-with-holy-cards-and-prayer-txt-file

9. Put an icon & prayer on your computer desktop

Another option is simply saving a holy image right to your computer’s desktop. Most computers can be set to show a preview of files, and you’ll have a small icon (in a couple senses) right on your desktop. You can also copy-and-paste prayers into simple text files or word documents and save right to your desktop.

10. Pray while exercising

My very favorite exercise is simply walking outdoors. I usually go on several walks every day, and nearly always pray the Rosary on my first walk. In my experience, being in the gym and lifting weights isn’t an environment well suited to lengthy prayer times – but if you’re a runner or enjoy walks like I do, try praying a rosary instead of cranking up the music or podcasts next time.

11. Turn your commute into adoration

No, you probably shouldn’t set up a mobile adoration chapel but if you live in a city where your commute is a nightmare, consider stopping by a church and praying for a few minutes rather than sitting at the office or in traffic. The traffic will be there, you may not be home until later anyway, so check for churches that may be along your commute and see if you might be able to spend some time in God’s presence.

 

12. Put a holy water font by your door

My father and mother-in-law recently gave my wife and me this beautiful little holy water font which belonged to my wife’s grandmother. I promptly installed it by our front door and more than being a family heirloom, it serves as a reminder to invoke the name of the Holy Trinity every time we are coming or going from our home. If your in-laws aren’t as great as mine, you can always find holy water fonts at local Catholic shops or even online.

 

Put holy cards on your desk to remind you of prayer

13. Place a holy card on your desk

Spend a lot of time at a desktop computer? Consider keeping a holy card taped to the computer monitor’s bezel, or propped up in the keyboard by the otherwise totally useless “function” keys. Or, simply place it on the desk but beware of it simply getting lost in the shuffle of regular papers.

 

Moleskine-like prayer journal

14. Keep a weekly prayer journal

What I say: “Oh my! I’ll pray for you.” What actually I do: forget. What I say: “Oh, that sounds like a great oppourtunity, I’ll say a prayer for you!” What I actually do: forget. What I say: “I’m so sorry to hear that, I’ll pray for you.” What I actually do: forget. I’m sure you can’t possibly relate to this, but here’s the weapon I’ve used to (mostly) overcome this terrible vice: A prayer journal. It is nothing fancy, just a simple black moleskine-styled notebook. We keep two lists in the notebook, one for things for which we want to give thanks, and another for prayer requests. Each Sunday, we turn the page, and update the lists for the week. Now, when I tell someone “I’ll pray for you” I either do it instantly, or add it to our prayer journal for the week.

15. Set your homepage to a prayer

Change your browser’s homepage to a favorite prayer. Perhaps one of our lists, Father Z’s Prayer Before Connecting to the Internet, or something from EWTN’s page of prayers. Then whenever you open up your browser, pause for a brief prayer.

 

girl praying

16. Pray with your family

Finally, the number one thing you can do develop a habit of prayer is to create a culture of prayer in your family. Make a point of praying together before and after meals, pray the Angelus as a family at noon if you’re together, pray the Rosary after dinner, pray compline at the end of the day, etc. Make it a regular practice, and hold each other accountable. For a fantastic introduction to creating a culture of prayer in your home, we highly recommend this book filled with practical advice and ageless principles: The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home by David Clayton & Leila Marie Lawler.


Remember, these aren’t prescriptions which we think everyone must practice, just some ideas which have helped us keep prayer a regular part of our daily lives. If you have tips to share please do so in the comments below and we’ll highlight the best.

6 Quotes from the Church Fathers on Mourning the Loss of a Child or Loved One

“Recently, a couple members of my extended family lost not one child but two in the span of one year, so I felt like words were not enough. I decided to seek out the wisdom of the Church Fathers, who always know the right thing to say.”

Listers, when there is a death in the family, it is always very hard to find the right words to say. I always struggle with this and end up bumbling through my condolences. In the end, I always feel that whatever I say is trite even though my attempts were heartfelt and well-meaning. It is especially hard to console a family when they are grieving the loss of a child. Recently, a couple members of my extended family lost not one child but two in the span of one year, so I felt like words were not enough. I decided to seek out the wisdom of the Church Fathers, who always know the right thing to say. What I found was not only uplifting but shed some light on how Catholics ought to view death. Whether it is you who might have lost a child or someone you might know, these quotes from the Church Fathers might be of some consolation. This list is a compilation of my findings:

1. Dwell on the wonderful company your child must be keeping

Well, your child may have departed from you, but he has gone to Christ the Lord. For you his eyes have been shut, but they are opened to the eternal light: he is gone from your table, but is now added to the table of angels. The plant was uprooted from here, but planted in paradise . From the earthly kingdom he was transferred to the heavenly kingdom. You see what was exchanged for what. Are you sad because you no longer see the beauty of the face of your child? But this happens, because you do not see the real beauty of the soul with which he rejoices in the heavenly feast. How beautiful indeed is the eye that sees God!  How sweet indeed is the mouth that is adorned with divine melodies!
St. Gregory of Nyssa from A Homily of Consolation Concerning Pulcheria

 

2. Remember that you remain united to your child through Christ

For why should I weep for thee, my most loving brother, who wast thus torn from me that thou mightest be the brother of all? For I have not lost but changed my intercourse with thee; before we were inseparable in body, now we are undivided in affection; for thou remainst with me and ever wilt remain. And indeed, whilst thou wast living with me, our country never tore thee from me, nor didst thou thyself ever prefer our country to me; and now thou art become surety for that other country, for I begin to be no stranger there where the better portion of myself already is. I was never wholly engrossed in myself, but the greater part of each of us was in the other, yet we were each of us in Christ, in Whom is the whole sum of all and the portion of each severally. This grace is more pleasing to me than thy natal soil, in which is the fruit not of nature but of grace, for in that body which lies lifeless lies the better work of my life, since in this body, too, which I bear is the richer portion of thyself.
St. Ambrose Book 1 of “On the Decease of Satyrus

Michelang

 

3.Remember to love God above all things
(Warning! This is one is a bit harsh, but it is something you ought to remind yourself)

Wherefore dost thou lament thy child? Wherefore thine husband? The former , because I had not enjoyed him, you say; the latter, because I expected that I should have enjoyed him longer. And this very thing, what want of faith does it argue, to suppose that thy husband or thy son constitutes thy safety, and not God! How dost thou not think to provoke Him? For often on this account He takes them away, that thou mayest not be so bound to them, so that it may withdraw thy hopes from them. For God is jealous, and wills to be loved by us most of all things: and that, because He loves us exceedingly[…]Love not thy husband more than God, and thou shalt not ever experience widowhood. Or rather, even if it should happen, thou shalt not have the feeling of it. Why? Because  thou hast an immortal Protector who loves thee better. If thou lovest God more, mourn not: For He who is more beloved is immortal, and does not suffer thee to feel the loss of him who is less beloved. This I will make manifest to thee by an example. Tell me, if thou hast a husband, complying with thee in all things, one that is respected amongst all, intelligent and wise, and loving thee, thou being esteemed happy on his account, and in conjunction with him shouldest thou bring forth a child, and then before it has arrived at the age of maturity, that child should depart; wilt thou then feel the affliction? By no means. For he that is more beloved makes it disappear. And now if thou love God more than thy husband assuredly He will not soon take him away. But even if He should take him, thou wilt not be sensible of the affliction. For this reason the blessed Job felt no severe suffering, when he heard of the death of his children all at once, because he loved God more than them…
St. John Chrysostom Homily 6 in his Homilies of 1 Thessalonians

4. Your child is in a better place, as cliche as that may sound.

And sayest thou, How is it possible for one that is man not to mourn? I reply if thou wilt reflect how neither the Patriarch nor Job, who both were men, gave way to any thing of the kind; and this too in either case before the Law , and Grace, and the excellent wisdom of the laws [we have]: if thou wilt account that the deceased has removed into a better country, and bounded away to a happier inheritance, and that thou hast not lost thy son but bestowed him henceforward in an inviolable spot. Say not then, I pray thee, I am no longer called “father,” for why art thou no longer called so when thy son abideth? For surely thou didst not part with thy child nor lost thy son? Rather thou hast gotten him, and hast him in greater safety. Wherefore, no longer shalt thou be called “father” here only, but also in heaven; so that thou hast not lost the title “father,” but hast gained it in a nobler sense; for henceforth thou shalt be called father not of a mortal child, but of an immortal; of a noble soldier; on duty continually within [the palace]. For think not because he is not present that therefore he is lost; for had he been absent in a foreign land, the title of thy relationship had not gone from thee with his body […]
St. John Chrysostom Homily 1 of his Homilies on Second Corinthians

Giotto

5. Honor your child through acts of penance and alms-giving. (This is essential!)

For the honor to the dead is, not wailings and lamentings, but hymns and psalmodies and an excellent life. The good man when he departheth, shall depart with angels, though no man be near his remains; but the corrupt, though he have a city to attend his funeral, shall be nothing profited. Wilt thou honor him who is gone? Honor him in another way, by alms-deeds, by acts of beneficence and public service.
St. John Chrysostom Homily 57 of his Homilies on the Gospel of Saint John.

6. When all other outlets of consolation fail, look to the Resurrection for comfort.

Say not then, “He is perished and shall no more be;” for these be the words of unbelievers; but say, “He sleepth and will rise again,” He is gone on a journey and will return with the King.” Who sayeth this? He that hath Christ speaking in him. “For,” saith he, “if revived, “even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” (1 Thess. iv.14.) If then thou seek thy son, there seek him where the King is, where is the army of the Angels; not in the grace; not in the earth; lest whilst he is so highly exalted, thyself remain groveling on the ground […] If we have this true wisdom, we shall easily repel all this kind of distress; and “the God of mercies and Father of all comfort” comfort all our hearts both those who are oppressed with such grief and those held down with any other sorrow; and grant us deliverance from all despair and increase of spiritual joy; and to all we attain, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom unto the Father, together with the Holy Spirit be glory, power, honor,  now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
St. John Chrysostom Homily 1 of his Homilies on 2 Corinthians 

Listers, if you have any more quotes to add to this list let us know.

Humanae Vitae: 12 Quotes on On Marital Love and Parenthood

“The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church.”

Listers, the following quotes represent in full Humanae Vitae paragraphs 8-10 by Pope Paul VI. The pope has laid down the groundwork for understanding the family as natural and sacramental institution. Marriage is unique among the sacraments, because it is the only sacrament that is also a natural institution among the peoples of the earth. Resounding within the following quotes and echoing throughout the Sacred Doctrine of the Church is the principle that grace perfects nature. Regarding Holy Matrimony, the invisible grace given at the visible sign of marriage perfects the natural institution of marriage. The Church is the guardian of all moral law – both natural and revealed – and thus the authority and the duty to articulate the true nature of marriage.

God’s Loving Design

 1. Love Designed the Family

“Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who “is love,” the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.”

2. A Natural Institution Crafted by God

“Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.”

3. Sacramental Grace Perfects the Natural Institution

“The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church.”

Married Love

4. Of Sense and Spirit

“In the light of these facts the characteristic features and exigencies of married love are clearly indicated, and it is of the highest importance to evaluate them exactly. This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.”

 5. Love for the Partner’s Own Sake

“It is a love which is total — that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.”

6. Livelong Love

“Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. Though this fidelity of husband and wife sometimes presents difficulties, no one has the right to assert that it is impossible; it is, on the contrary, always honorable and meritorious. The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness.”

7. Procreation and Education

“Finally, this love is fecund. It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being. “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.”

Responsible Parenthood

8. The Obligation of Parenthood

“Married love, therefore, requires of husband and wife the full awareness of their obligations in the matter of responsible parenthood, which today, rightly enough, is much insisted upon, but which at the same time should be rightly understood. Thus, we do well to consider responsible parenthood in the light of its varied legitimate and interrelated aspects.”

Pregnancy Is Not A Disease 9. Biological Laws and Innate Drives

“With regard to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means an awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions. In the procreative faculty the human mind discerns biological laws that apply to the human person. With regard to man’s innate drives and emotions, responsible parenthood means that man’s reason and will must exert control over them.”

10. The Factors of Having Children

“With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”

11. The Catholic Order of the Household

“Responsible parenthood, as we use the term here, has one further essential aspect of paramount importance. It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.”

12. Man Cannot Recreate Marriage to His Will

“From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow. On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator. The very nature of marriage and its use makes His will clear, while the constant teaching of the Church spells it out.”

The Domestic Church: 7 Steps to a Proper Catholic Home

The focal point of a Catholic home should be the family altar. This would be a place in which the family can gather to offer their prayers to God and ask the Saints to pray for them.

1. The King of the Catholic Home

It has been said that the Catholic home should be seen as “The Domestic Church”. With this being said, the Father is the head, the Mother is the beloved spouse, and the children are brought up learning to love and serve the Blessed Trinity. The true head of the Catholic home is Christ, just as the Head of the Church is the Supreme Pontiff, His Holiness. Christ should be known and recognized in each Catholic home as King; the family’s week should be centered around the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and prayer is a must.

2. Proper Prayers

Parents should encourage their children to pray to the Lord Our God, The Blessed Virgin, and the Saints in their own words as well as the traditional prayers of the Church.

  • Prayers of the Rosary: Sign of the Cross, Apostles’ Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and Fatima Prayer
  • The Nicene Creed
  • Blessing before and after meals
  • Prayer to Guardian Angel
  • Act of Contrition
  • Act of Faith
  • Act of Hope
  • Act of Charity
  • Hail, Holy Queen
  • St. Michael prayer
  • The Eternal Rest Prayer

The parents are encouraged to also teach these prayers to their children in Latin as well.

“The day the Church abandons her universal tongue [Latin] is the day before she returns to the catacombs” — Pope Pius XII

3. Holy Water

Prayer can be encouraged through the most minor of things, such as placing Holy Water fonts in bedrooms and ones main door. All Catholics should know the use and purpose of Holy Water, St. Teresa of Avila says:

“…There is nothing like holy water to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again. They also flee from the cross, but return; so holy water must have great value.”

Parents too should bless their own children with Holy Water, by signing them on their foreheads. Lastly, each child should have a Blessed (by a priest) Crucifix in their bedrooms above their beds. The child should be taught to kneel when rising and going to bed and say their prayers with their parents.

4. The Focal Point of the Home

As soon as Catholics move into a new home, they should ask a priest to bless it. All families should consider with great deal consecrating their homes to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Why? It is a simple way of letting Christ know that He is King.  The center of any home let alone a Catholic one should NEVER be a television! The focal point of a Catholic home should be the family altar. This would be a place in which the family can gather to offer their prayers to God and ask the Saints to pray for them. Family Rosaries, prayers for special graces, family novenas, and Lectio Divina should be said in front of the home altar.

5. Home Altar: Orientation & Necessary Items

Family altars, should ideally be placed on the Eastern wall, in the same orientation of church buildings; however, it is not necessary. The altar can be simple or elaborate, but beautiful nonetheless. Basic items that should be placed on the altar include:

  • Crucifix
  • Statue of Our Lady
  • Holy Water
  • icons (statues of Our Lord, Virgin, and/or Saints)
  • Blessed Salt
  • Rosaries
  • Charcoal incense burner
  • Blessed Candles, vigil candles, and Baptismal candles
  • 1962 Roman Missal

6. Home Altar: Recommended Literature

One should also consider: Breviary, the Douay Rheims Bible (only approved translation) Little Office of Our Lady, Holy Cards, flowers, the names/pictures of dead family members, palm branches, sacramental certificated (Baptism, 1st Holy Communion, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony). It would also be wise to keep a small library of books that will cultivate our Catholic faith: traditional Catechisms (Baltimore catechism, etc), “Lives of the Saints”, “Summa Theologica”, the writings of Sts Therese the Little Flower, St. John of the Cross,  St. Louis de Montfort, etc.

7. The Liturgical Season at Home

Families should change the home altar as the liturgical seasons change as well. During Passiontide (last two weeks of Lent), icons and statues should be covered with a purple cloth and there should be no flowers on the altar. In May, one might want to Crown Mary with Roses, keep a vigil candle going for as long as possibe, and bring Her various votive offerings, etc. Some families even clothe statues of the Virgin according to the liturgical season, for example, dressing Her in a white veil for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, or black on Good Friday.

Parents should make the liturgical year come alive for their children. This will help them pay more attention to the Mass and sermons, etc. During family devotions, it would be wise to dim lights, burn incense, light candles, play sacred music. Catholic spirituality whether it is Eastern, or Latin is about engaging the senses.

Let us be inspired by the words of a great Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila:

“In all created things discern the providence and wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks.”

Queen of families, pray for us.

 

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