Prayer is not a spiritual practice that comes easily to me. There have been seasons in which I find placing myself in God’s presence comes naturally, but more often, it seems to be a struggle. I have found I need guides. Praying Scriptures is helpful. Praying in groups, whether it is a time of intercession or simple contemplative silence, works well for me. Fixed prayers like Phyillis Tickles’ The Divine Hours series have also aided me greatly. In the past, I have been embarrassed to admit that I need prayer guides. My assumption was that if I was truly spiritually mature, I could be alone with God and pray without interruption or distraction for hours on end. To need guides like other people or books was a sign of weakness. Real prayer, the kind of prayer that really counted, had to come from my mind and from no one else. I was so jealous of friends who would talk peacefully and joyously about entire mornings spent in prayer. After years of struggle, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am simply someone who needs aids to prayer. This became especially clear to me after my father’s death when I found I was drawn to prayer but could not say anything. I bought some prayer books like The Divine Hours and found the words of the Church so wonderful and beneficial.
The most recent prayer guide I have used is the daily podcast Pray-As-You-Go. I recommend it highly. The spiritual director I saw last year turned me on to this wonderful guide. Each podcast is around twelve to fifteen minutes long. There is meditative music that often goes with the theme of that day’s prayer. The prayers are around a reading of Scripture that follows the lectionary. I love the piercing questions in the podcasts. Pray-As-You-Go is created by a community of English Jesuits. Each week there is a different leader and reader. The different voices guiding listeners through prayer and who all join in at the end with the recitation of the Gloria Patri remind me of the wonderful grandness of God’s love and the diversity of God’s people. The fifteen minutes with Pray-As-You-Go have become some of my favorite moments of my day. You can also subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.