This past week I was down at the Lake of the Ozarks with brother priests for our annual clergy days. One of the speakers talked to us about spiritual direction. He said one of the first things he does with people who come to him for spiritual direction is ask them to pray first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. In the morning he asks them to pray a morning offering. There is one that we learned as children:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father.
The main idea was to offer your day to God – the good and the bad.
In the evening he would ask the person to do an examination of conscience. This examen is a form of prayer that St. Ignatius of Loyola popularized to help people find God in their lives. St. Ignatius broke this examen into five easy steps.
The first step is gratitude. You recall the good things that happened to you during the day, and you give thanks for those good things.
The second step is asking for the grace to know your sins, to see where you have turned away from the deepest part of yourself, the part that calls you to God.
The third step is to review your day. Basically you ask, “What happened today?” See in the moments of your day how God was with you.
The fourth step is asking for forgiveness from God for anything sinful that you’ve done during the day.
The fifth step is asking for the grace of God’s help during the next day. St. Ignatius suggested you close your examination of conscience by praying the Our Father.
These two disciplines of prayer can help us be more aware of God’s presence in our lives. Gandhi saw the importance of prayer in his own life.
I am neither a man of letters nor of science,
but I humbly claim to be a man of prayer.
It is prayer that has saved my life.
Without it I would have lost my reason long ago.
If I did not lose my peace of soul,
in the midst of my many trials,
it is because of the peace
that came to me through prayer.
One can live several days without food,
but not without prayer.
Prayer is the key to each morning,
and the lock to each evening.
It is a sacred alliance between God and us.
Let everyone try this experience, and they will find
that daily prayer will add something new to their lives,
something which cannot be found elsewhere. (Mahatma Gandhi)
Prayer is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Take time to pray every day.