Published December 26, 2019
“Let us begin this New Year with a resolution. Be all for Jesus and with Jesus and you will be happy and holy throughout the year. Give yourselves over to prayer and close union with God …”
“Thirsting for God: Daily Meditations”
A great many of us go through the annual ritual of making New Year’s resolutions, most of which are abandoned and quickly forgotten. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why you forget it? Is it because something in your life is broken, spiritually or personally, and you are attempting to fix it by making a resolution that you might end up not keeping?
The fact is that all of us are broken in some way. We are imperfect creatures of God and there is always room for improvement. I would like to give you a thought to consider in the new year. Instead of doing the familiar resolutions of losing weight, getting more exercise, spending more quality time with your family, giving up or reducing habits like smoking, drinking, snacking or swearing, why not dive deeper into your relationship with God by developing a new way of praying?
My prayer life
Let me tell you a story about my prayer life. If you are a regular reader of this column, you know that I am a cradle Catholic. I attended Catholic schools from the first grade through graduate school. I was blessed with a sainted mother who made prayer a part of our daily lives. I married a devout Catholic who has shown me the importance and value of our faith. I memorized all of the traditional prayers and said them by rote as all good Catholics do. In short, I thought I had all the bases covered.
Then tragedy struck our family when two of our adult sons died within 15 months of each other, one by accident and one by illness. The sudden death of anyone is tragic, but the death of a child, regardless of age, is like no other experience in life.
I was angry, depressed and felt that God had abandoned me and my family. I prayed for understanding and guidance but no response. I sought help from a counselor. I laid bare my inner feelings. I told her that it just wasn’t fair. Why did God allow this to happen? We were good Catholics. We prayed. We went to Mass. We were active in our parish.
She asked me if I had ever told God how I felt. I said that I couldn’t bring myself to question God’s providence and reveal my true feelings and pent up anger. She said, “Why not? He is God. He can take it!”
The beginning of a new way
I was quite reluctant to tell God how I felt. After all, God is our creator, a supreme being, all-knowing, all-powerful. My lifelong relationship with God was one of reverence and awesome respect, certainly not one of anger. If I intended to express my true feelings and emotions to God, I would have to develop a different way of communicating with him.
I made a resolution that I would try talking to God rather than just saying the traditional prayers. I would also make praying a necessary part of my daily routine by using my “down time” throughout the day. We all have down time. For me a major down time is when I’m driving to and from the office. In a metropolis like Atlanta, I find that driving and waiting in traffic is an excellent time to talk to God. It also helps me to ignore crazy drivers, speeders and road rage. Now I instinctively start to pray when I get into my car.
I start my daily prayer routine on the way to work. I begin with the rosary. Then I recite the “Memorare,” the Act of Contrition and the Guardian Angel Prayer. This takes about 15 minutes.
When I’m warmed up, I simply start talking to God like I would with a close friend. Talking to God is a much more personal and intimate way of praying. It has allowed me to develop a closeness to God that I had not experienced previously.
One way to enhance the new method of praying is to seek the solitude of an empty church where you can sit quietly and begin an informal conversation with God.
Start a new prayer routine
I highly recommend that you consider a different type of resolution this year. Start a new prayer routine—one of talking to God. He will listen because he loves you. And, if you listen quietly, you will hear him talk to you.
Have a happy and prayerful New Year!
Bill Clarke, former business executive, teacher and senior citizen, emerged from his third retirement to serve as the associate director of professional development for the archdiocesan Office of Formation and Discipleship. To send your thoughts to Bill, email firstname.lastname@example.org.