Many years ago I discovered a collection of daily devotions called In Conversation With God, by Father Francis Fernandez, which introduced me to the spirituality of St. Josemaria Escriva.
From the first day that I started reading these I knew I found a spiritual “friend.” The books in the set read as if I’m talking to a personal Spiritual Director—it’s like he knows my daily struggles!
The focus of these books is really about how to live the Gospels, and live out our mission, in our state of life to which we are called.
Both Father Fernandez and St. Escriva, offer practical spiritual advice for everyday people. The ultimate message is that our work, family life and ordinary events of daily life provide us opportunities to grow closer to God and serve others.
In The Way, St. Escriva provides nugget after nugget of spiritual gold (999 to be exact) to help us live a life of prayer and love daily. When I feel discouraged, because juggling a full time job and being a mom for five kids has left me spiritually dry and exhausted, St. Escriva says to me:
“Work tires you physically and leaves you unable to pray. But you’re always in the presence of your Father. If you can’t speak to him, look at him every now and then like a little child…and he’ll smile at you (895).”
Discovering that I didn’t have to be a daily communicant, or pray a rosary daily, or spend time in Adoration perfectly was so freeing. I can practice the presence of God in my daily work even when feeling overwhelmed from the daily demands.
The two habits of St. Escriva that I go back to again and again are ejaculatory prayers, or aspirations, and his idea of the Heroic Minute.
Aspirations are small, short prayers that take no time at all and no preparation, but continually bring us back into the presence of God and remind us of His infinite mercy and friendship. For these prayers that St. Pio referred to as “arrow prayers,” I don’t need 17 minutes for a Rosary or any particular aid. Rather, I can lift up a “Jesus, I trust in You,” as I knock and enter the room to start a patient visit.
The Jesus Prayer is one of my favorites (Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner). The words of St. Thomas the Apostle, “my Lord and my God,” leave many lips when words fail us as we are in the presence of Jesus. The simple, “My Jesus, I thank you,” is adequate in any situation where gratitude for blessings or trials is appropriate. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, my family is yours, guard them in your heart.” “Guardian angel, be with me.” “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.”
There are so many prayers that can sustain me throughout the day, helping me live out my vocation as a mother and wife, and as a physician, with the help of Jesus.
And no special formula is ever needed beyond simply, “Jesus, I love you.” When my life feels dry and I feel like I need a life line, these are my go to prayers. Through these small acts of love, Jesus smiles on me. When my practice of the presence of God is stronger, my overall prayer life is stronger. St. Escriva speaks of how these little prayers kindle our love for God:
“And in my meditation a fire shall flame up.” That’s why you go to prayer: to become a blaze, a living flame giving heat and light.
So, when you don’t know how to go on, when it feels as if your fire is dying out and you can’t throw fragrant logs on it, throw on the branches and twigs of short vocal prayers, of ejaculations, to keep feeding the blaze. And you will have used the time well. (92)
So little by little, I want to let my prayers rise like incense, until the small spark becomes a bonfire in my heart for Jesus.
1 thought on “Aspiring to Pray”
Fr. Joseph Nielsen told my daughter, Hannah, that when her headaches left her unable to think or pray, to just say the name of Jesus over and over. She said she found that a big help and helped her turn to God during times of great pain.