Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, and Advent is here. So put away your credit cards, and pull out your rosary! Advent is the short preparatory season before Christmas that, unfortunately, in our society (and in our families) can too often be filled with the busyness of preparations focused on shopping and buying new stuff, running from one event to the next, organizing and decorating our homes, and trying to keep up with the Joneses. In all the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s easy to forget the most important preparation—readying our hearts to welcome Jesus more intimately into our lives, our homes and our families.
In Psalm 46:10 we are reminded to “Be still and know that I am God!” Quieting ourselves and taking time to be silent can be challenging, especially in a world where we’re accustomed to so much noise and busyness. But silence is essential to the Christian life, since it is often in the silence that God speaks to our hearts. In his book “Prayer for Beginners,” Peter Kreeft says, “Nothing but prayer can make saints because nothing but God can make saints, and we meet God in prayer.” Do you desire to become a saint (i.e. get to heaven)? Do you desire for your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and other loved ones to get to heaven? Heaven is being in the full presence of God, in perfect union with him. Prayer is a primary means through which we grow in relationship with God. Having an active prayer life, therefore, is essential to the Christian life and our journey to heaven.
Peter Kreeft explains, “Praying is more important than eating because your soul is more important than your body … Praying keeps your soul alive because prayer is real contact with God, and God is the life of the soul as the soul is the life of the body.” During this time of year, Americans tend to do a lot of eating. I would challenge you, instead, to capitalize on the season of Advent by doing a lot of praying. Advent, Christmas and the New Year are great opportunities to challenge yourself and your family to develop new prayer habits. The Catechism reminds us, “Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort” (CCC 2725). It will take work and some willpower to start new prayer practices, but God’s grace will help you, and the effort will pay off in the end.
Reflect on what you and your family can do this Advent and beyond to grow in your prayer life, and then commit to those resolutions. Maybe you could attend Mass more regularly, including during the week. You could spend time each week in eucharistic adoration or pray the rosary every day as a family. You could get an Advent wreath for your home and light the candle each week along with a family prayer. Or maybe, in general, you could spend more time praying with your spouse and children, along with praying for them and other loved ones on a regular basis. You could also see last week’s Witness article on using technology for prayer to find some helpful prayer apps and other resources.
Whether spending time in prayer alone or with your loved ones, consider the acronym P.R.A.I.S.E. to guide the prayer time. P = PRAISE and thank God for his faithfulness and glory; R = REPENT of the times each of you failed to love God or each other; A = ASK the Lord to supply your needs; I = INTERCEDE for those who need your prayers; S = SEEK God’s will for your lives; E = EXPRESS your desire to serve God until you meet again in prayer and wrap up the prayer time (adapted from “Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising [almost] Perfect Kids” by Greg and Lisa Popcak). Following this guide will help keep prayer time both focused and balanced. Whatever you do, I invite you to make the most of this Advent season in your families by setting aside time to deepen your prayer life together.