After discovering what time of the day best works for prayer and sanctifying the very first moments of the day, the next question is, what now? I have set aside 15 minutes or an hour to pray, what should I do during that time?
Before I start examining different types of prayer, let me say one thing: we must first understand the nature of prayer and not succumb to the temptation to pray on a daily basis in order to "check" it off our list of things to do.
Prayer, above all else, is a relationship. As Saint Therese so eloquently put it,
For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy (Story of a Soul).
This quote was deliberately put at the very start of the Catechism’s section on “What is Prayer” and should always be kept in mind. Prayer is always an action of the heart, as we cry out to God and lay before Him all of our needs and worries.
God is the bridegroom and we are all His bride. Prayer is the way in which we can respond to the bridegroom’s invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb.
Also, prayer is an adventure in loving God. He leads us in different ways and almost never in the same way. He is always challenging us and beckoning us to follow Him to go “farther up and further in.” He is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and as C.S. Lewis depicted Him in the Chronicles of Narnia, “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”
God is wild in a good sense. One can not simply pin Him down and treat Him like a machine that dispenses candy; “If I pray 10 Rosaries today, my prayer will be answered.” God wants to teach us how to love him and love is always an adventure.
That is why the he first method we should explore in prayer is a heart to heart conversation with God. It is the simplest and hardest way to pray. It consists of talking to God as if you were talking to the person you trust the most. This means not just talking about surface feelings, thoughts or desires, but more importantly talking about what is really bothering you in your heart. There might be a deep wound that is still there from your childhood or a real doubt that God exists because of a profound evil that has happened in your life. Above all else, take everything to God, especially the deepest desires and hurts of your heart.
There is no formula in this method of prayer. It is a simple conversation with God, where we must speak, but also listen (and often the answer does not come immediately or in audible words).
God desires to be near to us and our needs and wants to hear what is on our hearts. Let us take everything to him, even the most mundane of details, and trust that he is there listening in compassion.
God wants to develop a relationship with us. May we accept the invitation and respond in love.