Summer Spirituality: Building a Habit of Prayer In Ordinary Time

Rosary beads hangingI find Lent and Advent easy to commit to, in many ways. The practices throughout these seasons have been ingrained in my mind since I was a small child. There is a clear beginning and ending, and I know what to expect from each period. These are the times that I am supposed to be working on my faith – so I sign up for a reflection book, make a commitment to pray the Rosary, or take on some other faith-related exercise. Summer is a different story.

The nice weather and fluid schedules often lead me to feeling lost in my spiritual life. I can easily go days without praying for more than a few minutes at a time. Since I usually do not make a conscious choice to commit to a prayer practice, I allow the summer to slip by without growing much in my faith. I realized that I needed to add a spiritual element after my experience a few summers ago. I found that I hardly ever prayed, other than right before bed. It is a blessing to be able to relax more and spend more time outside, but if I am honest, those good things often took the place of the greatest thing: my relationship with God. 

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I realized I became less patient and less kind towards my family members and others during the summer because I was not connected to the experience of God’s love in prayer. My lack of commitment to spending time with God and my relationship with him led to less intentionality in my other relationships. Neglecting prayer can become fuel for ignoring others. 

With this in mind, I tried something different last summer. I decided to make a commitment, as I would at the beginning of Advent or Lent, to deepen my prayer life and intimacy with God. I would carve out the summer from the middle of June to the end of August and make these six weeks a time of dedication to God and growth in my spiritual life. 

My idea was to imitate Jesus’ actions of going off and praying on his own throughout the Gospels. I wanted to make each day of the summer a “mini-retreat”, like Jesus often would when he went to the mountains or a deserted place to pray (Mark 1:35; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12). Specifically, I wanted to spend time contemplating the “solitary place” that Jesus went to. So, I decided to pray every morning, in the same place, and in a similar way. 

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I set an earlier alarm every day, sat on the same spot on the couch, and located a crucifix on the wall to center my focus. I found that the first step of waking up early is the most important. In order to increase my odds, I moved my phone charger to my dresser so that I would have to get out of bed to shut off my alarm each morning. Before doing so, I was too prone to hit the snooze button. Then I would wake up when the kids woke up and lose out on my time for prayer. The early mornings served as a great stage to offer my entire day to God.

Second, I sat in the same space each day to increase the context of my prayer. The routine of sitting in the same space each day slowly sanctifies that space and triggers in my mind that I am about to enter into something special and holy. Once I adopted this habit, it became easier to pray, and I began to enter into deep prayer more quickly. The scene was simple and ordinary, but I slowly began to work the muscles of prayer each morning, in a similar way. The space and the entire process led me to become more used to praying in silence each day. I began to crave it. 

Finally, I wanted to move a crucifix to my place of prayer so that I could focus on something when my mind began to drift. I got in the habit of beginning my time gazing at the cross and asking Christ to guide me in being alone with him. Then I would read the Gospel of the day, reflect on a key phrase or action of Jesus, and end with some time of quiet prayer looking at the cross again. 

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I found that it was the commitment to making summer prayerful that made all of the difference. Once I was intentional about how I would spend the very first parts of my day, I was able to encounter God in ways that I never had before in silence and in the solitary space of my own living room. I was also able to be more of the man that I am being called to be: more patient and kind with my family. While far from perfect, prayer is continuing to radically change me. 

Summer is not simply a time for rest and relaxation in the sun. Like all seasons, it is a chance to grow in intimacy with God. This summer, make your own commitment to prayer and watch him move to meet you every single day.