One of the main themes of my website is that prayer can be likened to exercise. Like physical exercise, prayer requires an earnest and consistent effort for noticeable results. In physical exercise, you will never get into good shape if you only do one push-up. Likewise, throwing out a “Hail Mary” once a month really won’t get you very connected to your faith. However, you also want to be careful not to go to the other extreme and wear yourself out. Any good fitness instructor will tell you that you need to rest periodically so you can regain energy and avoid injury. Likewise, make sure your prayer routine includes time to rest so that you don’t experience spiritual burnout.
When I say you should take prayer rests that does not mean that you can go and sin your heart out or stop prayer entirely. Much like how an athlete shouldn’t devour an entire cheesecake on a rest day, taking a break from your usual prayer routine does not give you license to sin. When I say rest, I mean changing or lightening your prayer routine in order to restore spiritual energy and gain new perspective. There are many ways to add variety to your prayers to break you out of your routine. For example, try reading the Bible, praying the rosary, listening to Catholic radio, saying different prayers, or just setting aside some personal “quiet” time for reflection and meditation. Maybe there is a friend or family member who is going through a hard time whom you should call or visit.
My aim is to pray two rosary mysteries every day during my commute to and from work. I started out trying to pray all four mysteries, but I found that I just do not have the focus and attention for that at this point in my life. Instead of praying earnestly, I ended up just repeating words while think about other things. Even two mysteries can be a stretch at times as my mind has a tendency to wonder. When I’m not up to giving the rosary a 100% effort, I turn my attention to other activities like listening to ETWN or reading Catholic news websites. Often, when I resume my usual routine after a one-day break I’m more focused and can meditate on each mystery from a new perspective. Maybe I read or heard something on my rest day that I then integrate into my meditations. By taking a little rest, I get much more out of subsequent prayers.
Let’s remember that life is a long journey and we should pace ourselves in all aspects of our lives. You can’t win a marathon by trying to sprint 26 miles. Doing so would lead to exhaustion, injury, and discouragement. Not only would you not win, chances are you won’t even cross the finish line. Likewise, you should pace your spiritual life and build up your spiritual “muscle.” There are times for intense prayer and meditation and there are times for lighter reflection and learning. How do you know the appropriate mix? Just listen to your spiritual fitness instructors — Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the saints, and the choir of angels in Heaven. They will let you know when it is time to step up your efforts or take a breather.
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