Friday, June 12, 2015

I've Decided to Pray Like a Child

As I got through the rest of the Catechism (took me 2.5 years, on and off, but I finished it!) and reading Too Deep for Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina by Thelma Hall, I became aware of how poor my prayers can be. I'm not saying that I don't do it -- I literally schedule time out of my day to pray at least twice a day (morning and night) -- but sometimes I just pray without really paying attention to the words I'm saying.

Some days (really, most days), I get easily distracted while praying. When I read about how we, as children, pray without really paying attention to the words, I recalled how it was the opposite for me. As a child, I really got into the words in each of the prayers... and this was early as 5-7 years old; certainly before my First Communion at age 8. It was when I remembered how much I loved it as a child that I decided to pray more like a child and less like a busy, distracted adult.

Those who've read the Catechism of the Catholic Church know how beautifully it breaks the Our Father. As I read it, I kept remembering about how I used to pray it as a little girl. This prayer has a special place in my heart because it was my favorite prayer when I was a little lady. Being raised bilingual (thank you, mom and dad!) I learned it in both Spanish and English but praying it in English always sparked my imagination.

When we attended Mass, I would be mesmerized by the words in the prayer. In my vivid imagination, I would break down the prayer, line by line, and actually try to imagine what the words meant... as much as I could understand them at that age. I still remember, 20+ years later, exactly what used to come to mind: sun shining down on grassy hills, full of birds, trees, and (really) the natural beauty God has blessed us with. And then, as the prayer continued, I would imagine bread being broken, forgiving people... basically, whatever was being prayed.

Fast forward 20+ years... it's not the same. My faith and knowledge has grown but I have yet to pray as I did as a child. These days I sometimes rush through prayers because of poor time management. Other days I let other things like text messages, whatever is TV, or online distract me. I'm not proud of it but it's reality. The closest I get to praying as I used to is during the Rosary. I can sometimes very easily visualize each mystery (that vivid imagination of mine still exists though it is only tapped into when I write). The Sorrowful Mysteries will reduce me to tears every time that I can put all my attention on it. But, still, it's not the same.

When I realized all of these things, I decided to revert back to how I used to pray when I was a little lady. There were less distractions... distractions, which, really, are mostly due to technology. Technology isn't bad but we have to be careful with how we use it... especially when social media is involved. Unfortunately, I've used the excuse that a majority of my friends have moved away from L.A./So Cal as an excuse to overuse social media. "I need to stay in touch with everyone," I say as an excuse. No, Emmy. Stop.

I've noticed that pacing/walking around my apartment while I pray helps me focus on the words. I need to physically remove myself from my room (where I have a TV; where I leave my laptop, iPod touch, and cell phone) and I pace around the living room while I pray in the morning. At night, I wait for my mom to go to sleep (she has the best timing and manages to interrupt my prayers on her days off so I've learned to work around her schedule) and then I do my nighttime prayers with more pacing. It's getting easier for me to do this... except now I have to learn how to work with distracting thoughts.

My spiritual director has suggested that I allow the distracting thoughts pop into my mind while I pray. As soon as I figure out why they've come up, I can push it to one side and continue praying. Sometimes these thoughts come up for a reason. It's been working lately (the stopping, dealing with the thought, and then resuming prayers) and I hope that I eventually get the hang of it so I can focus more on the prayers in between distractions. Baby steps, y'all.

I know that these changes I've decided to implement won't happen overnight and that's okay. As we grow in our prayer life, we find out what works and what doesn't work for us. I've learned what causes distractions (technology, worries, hungry, sleepiness, certain times of the day when the apartment building is as its noisiest, etc.) and I've been reminded that using my imagination to visualize the words of the prayers helps the words have more meaning to me. Now let's see how long it takes me to improve my prayers and prayer time. :)

Anyway, this was just something I've been wanting to write about for a couple of days now but hadn't had a chance to because of a busy schedule. :)

Alright... this is my blog post for today. I'm trying to wean myself off of social media and being online most of the day so I should give my laptop a break. Yes, I will still live tweet the USWNT and other football (soccer) matches later today and this weekend. Hello, it's me. ;) In the meantime... I've downloaded two audiobooks and I have a mountain of books to read before the start of grad school so I can stay away from my laptop and social media without much trouble. Again, baby steps. ;)

I hope y'all had a great week and have an equally great or better weekend. ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

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