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 | By Michael St. Pierre, Ed.D.

Preparation and Planning

Remove Barriers That Keep You From Prayer

I remember it clearly when I was a kid: My father wanted to get a new tractor. The problem was that it was too big for the outdoor shed. After a few days of thinking and planning, he figured out a way to fit the big, orange machine into the outdoor building. The doors would need to be enlarged, the roof raised and the floor bolstered. In the end, there was ample space for the machine and room to spare.

Believe it or not, prayer is a lot like this. Our prayers are often the result of prior thinking and acting. Whether we realize it or not, we pray from our experiences. This movement from living-praying-living forms a holy routine in our days. And, unsurprisingly, this produces space for God to move and form us in the depth of our being.

How can you make this prayer more fruitful? It turns out that, before you pray, there are a number of things that can contribute to your disposition, attitude and ability to pray.

The third habit of a prayerful person, Preparation and Planning, is all about removing the barriers that often keep us from prayer. The more accessible the prayer, the better. I suggest three areas for better preparation and planning:

For your morning quiet time:

In order to set your day on the right path, a morning devotional time is essential. Decide on a place in your home where you will pray. Make sure any tools you will need are set out the night before, such as your Bible and a journal. 

For sacramental moments:

Whether it is Sunday Mass or monthly confession, preparation is important. Try to avoid rushing. For Sunday Mass, be sure to read the Gospel reading in advance and arrive 10 minutes early for worship. For confession, add it to your digital or paper planner so you don’t have to wonder when you’ll go to confession in a given month.

For annual reflection and evaluation:

As a new liturgical season begins (Ordinary Time, Lent, Advent), set aside a quiet hour when you can assess how you are doing. How might God be leading you in this new season? What can change? What can you do to capture that inspiration from the Lord?

Much of prayer is about intention, pausing to let the Lord make space in our hearts for greater transformation. As with all things in the spiritual life, be patient with yourself and keep at it.

Michael St. Pierre, Ed.D. is the executive director of the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, the founder of Nonprofit Productive and the author of The Five Habits of Prayerful People: A No-Excuses Guide to Strengthening Your Relationship with God.