People often ask what to do when their prayer life becomes dry or desolate or when they know they need to give it a kick start because they have hit rock bottom and need God. For those who have found themselves separated from the Lord due to addiction and are looking for helpful tips or a guide to restart their spiritual life, I would offer the following “helps”; Consistency, Relational Prayer, and the Daily Examine.
Consistency: So often, we set out to do great things in response to a need for change, whether self-identified or encouraged by another. We want to change how we eat, exercise, conduct our moral life, and yes, how we support these endeavors through our spiritual life. We must keep our goals manageable so that we can practice them with consistency. It is essential to start small and grow over time. Starting too big can cause us to become overwhelmed and lead to feelings of defeat or wanting to quit. Our consistency can also be proof, not only to ourselves but also to others, that this change is substantive and isn’t just a one-hit wonder.
Relational Prayer: Our spiritual life aims not to accomplish the perfect memorization of rote prayers. While rote prayer is a significant part of the church’s history and an integral part of one’s prayer life, memorizing prayers is not the goal of one’s spiritual life. Our spiritual life is about a relationship with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If we treated our human relationships like we treat our relationship with God when it’s not good, we wouldn’t have any. We build healthy human relationships on trust, communication, and love. This personal relationship model is essential to kick-start our spiritual life again. While there are many nuances to this relationship, I offer some simple advice: just talk to him. He is there, and he earnestly wants to have this personal relationship with you.
Daily Examen: The Ignatian-based Daily Examen is adjusted based on who is using it and their needs. Doing a daily examen is an excellent way to keep our lives in check and make sure that all is well in our three major relationships; God, self, and others. I often tell people that if you can give me 10 minutes a day consistently, you can transform your relationship with Jesus. Here’s the breakdown.
First, five minutes in the evening. Before going to bed, quiet yourself and review your day. Ask yourself three questions: How have I done well? How have I not done well? And how am I going to do better tomorrow? What does this achieve? Overall it makes the process of change a very manageable reality. Doing this daily vs. monthly or yearly helps us embrace who I am and who I need to be is achievable, and it isn’t a monumental task. How I have done well reminds us that I still accomplish good things even amid sin or struggle, and I AM GOOD! Answering how I have not done well keeps my shortcomings and weaknesses front and center and stops them when they are still small and manageable. How I am going to better tomorrow is an opportunity to set some achievable goals with the Lord and keep you engaged for the exciting day that is to come.
Second, take five minutes in the morning, broken into two parts: intentional thanksgiving and supplication for the work ahead. Intentional thanksgiving is something that can change our spiritual life. We often glaze over the things for which we are thankful. For example, “God, I am thankful for my family.” While that is a beautiful sentiment, are we getting intentional with the Lord about those things that make us grateful. Intentional thanksgiving isn’t about telling God how great he did; it’s about us realizing how great God is and that he is at the core of it all. Instead of, “God, I am thankful for my family,” drill down deeper and go specifically to a person and what they did in the last 24 hours that made you thankful. “God, thank you for my wife, who did an amazing job last night preparing a meal that allowed our family to experience your love around the dinner table.” It seems a lot more thankful, doesn’t it? The second part of the five minutes in the morning is all about supplication for the work ahead. The night before, you came up with a plan on how you will do better. Invite the Lord into your day and ask for help in successfully living out of what you need to accomplish. “Lord, last night, I realized that I need greater custody of the eyes. Help me today to remain focused on the beauty of your creation, not to objectify anyone, and to seek you in the moments when I am too weak to accomplish this.” It is amazing what happens when we start the day with the Lord in the forefront of our thoughts and intentions, rather than have him on the bench, calling on him if we remember to do so.
The beauty of 2000 years of development of the spiritual life is that there are so many things that can help us. I have found these three useful, especially as you seek to kick start your spiritual life. So my friends, keep it consistent, keep it relational, and keep examining things with God’s help and grace!