Tips To Help Your Prayer Life In The Summer
The excitement of summer gets us out of the house and outdoors, a much-needed reprieve from long winter nights and freezing temperatures. We take our families on road trips, family reunions, camping at state parks, and to festivals. If our kids are still in school, they’ll likely attend some sort of art or science or dance camp, too.
These are wonderful ways to get ourselves in the sunshine, mingle with others, and renew a sense of community. Sadly, though, we may find that our prayer life lags behind us while we are busily flitting to and from the activities that get us out of our daily routines.
If you have a young family, you understand well how difficult it is to establish and maintain a regular prayer life, anyway. Despite the struggles, there are creative ways we can ensure that God remains at the center of all we are thinking, saying, and doing when we’re in the midst of collecting fun memories. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Carry Your Devotional and Rosary with You
I have a giant purse because I have three young girls who are always hungry or sticky. One way I’ve learned to utilize the space I have is to include prayer books for each of my girls and myself, as well as my Rosary. We often find ourselves in situations with unexpected lapses of time – in a waiting room at a doctor’s office, while stuck in construction, or on a long drive. During those times, I get out the Rosary, and we all pray together.
My girls also enjoy looking at or reading their books about the saints or devotionals for children throughout the day, regardless of where we are because they observe Mom and Dad doing the same.
It might seem awkward to do something like this when you are surrounded by people who don’t pray or aren’t particularly religious. You don’t want to stick out like an odd family. Yet there are ways to pray discreetly when you are in the midst of those who aren’t familiar with this spiritual rhythm.
For example, our family recently took a road trip to the Midwest to visit our in-laws. We knew it would be tricky to incorporate family prayer time while chatting with cousins and siblings. But Ben and I took advantage of every opportunity where our family was alone – in the van as we drove to restaurants, in the evening when we tucked the kids in bed, when others were out shopping, or taking naps.
The key to praying effectively, no matter where you are, is to constantly be aware of the time you are given without squandering it.
Use Your Cell Phone
Plenty of us pull out that phone when we’re bored, want to avoid conversation with someone, or just to keep up with social media on the go. Why not use your smartphone to pray? There are plenty of apps that include the Divine Office, the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and daily Mass readings. Choose among your favorites, and make it a habit to click on a prayer app instead of social media.
It’s truly incredible how much time we waste without realizing it. Recently, I decided to use my time in between appointments, in the checkout lane at the grocery, and while driving to pray. Even while waiting in line I can usually pray one or two decades of the Rosary! Sometimes I am able to pray an entire Divine Mercy Chaplet, depending on how long the line is.
We all know plenty of people who are in very dire situations. In turn, we often feel helpless and that saying a quick prayer is really no help at all. Why not use ordinary moments – even busy ones – to offer up your intentions for a person who pops in your mind? If you pray with confidence, your gift is far more effective and powerful than anything else, because you have the saints interceding with you, your guardian angel praying with you, and the Lord acting upon your prayerful sacrifice.
Nearly every festival, fair, or large carnival offers Sunday Mass during the event, especially if it is a weeklong affair. If you have kids who are in 4H or you’re traveling to a county fair, look up Mass times while you’re there. It’s a way to meet your Sunday obligation without making it feel like an obligation. Instead, you are starting your time by giving it back to God.
Another option, especially if you have small children, is to use sidewalk chalk to make a large Rosary with beads. You can have your kids take turns hopping on each “bead” while praying Hail Marys together.
If gardening is soothing to you during these months of gorgeous blooms, try meditating on a particular aspect of Jesus’ life while you plant. Consider Scripture, especially about sowing seeds or the lilies of the field as you sow, prune, pluck, and weed. Nature offers a perfect landscape for us to enjoy God’s incredible creation while pondering the very mysteries of life contained in the changing seasons and cycles of life and death.
Praying outdoors can be very healing, too. If you’re on vacation and take your daily jog or walk, use that time to dialogue with God. Start with the landscape around you, and begin with praise or thanksgiving to Him. Spontaneous prayer will frequently result, and you will not only feel invigorated physically but also uplifted spiritually.
Bring Spiritual Books to Read
While on vacation or away from home, most of us like to relax and unwind with fluffy magazines or novels. These are, of course, not bad in and of themselves, but along with them, try bringing a book about the Catholic faith that will truly nourish your soul. No matter what I am currently reading, I like to always have some sort of spiritually enriching book at my bedside table that I read once per day, maybe only one chapter.
Doing this reminds you that, while you are away from home, your relationship with God is never on vacation. Surrounding yourself with sacramentals (or wearing them, as in the case of a Miraculous Medal or Scapular) and other physical items will constantly draw your attention back to what matters most – eternity.
Life on the go doesn’t have to mean eliminating time spent with God. Even if you are traveling on a road trip, it’s easy to include scenic stops at churches, cathedrals, or chapels. While admiring the architecture or artwork, spend some quiet time to pray.
When I was in my early twenties, my parents took my younger brother and me on a spontaneous road trip. We ended up at a beautiful state park in Ohio, but along the way, we stopped at a small, rural church nestled off a major highway. It was both sublime and comforting to enter into the sanctuary of silence and remember that God was still with us on this trip. We all ended up looking around in awe and spending a few moments of prayer in our hearts.
Essentially, be resourceful and creative when you are busier than usual or out of your typical routine. Plan ahead, so that you don’t accidentally overlap Sunday brunch with the only Mass time available to you that day. Everyone is busy, but God still waits for us. And when we continue to turn to Him no matter where we are in the world, we know that He guides our path. Then every adventure and experience becomes an opportunity for us to grow closer to Him.