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5 Practical tips on how to pray from St. Francis de Sales

For those looking to jumpstart their spiritual life.

At times developing a prayer life can be a daunting task. There are so many resources out there and different ideas about prayer that a person can easily be overwhelmed.

Thankfully the saints have already forged a path for us and their writings can be a treasure-trove for those starting out in their spiritual life.

In particular, St. Francis de Sales, a spiritual master of the 16th century, wrote an invaluable guide to personal prayer in his Introduction to the Devout LifeHe wrote it specifically geared to laypeople, and it contains a wealth of spiritual insight. Below is a brief selection from his book that concerns the topic of prayer.

1. Begin prayer by placing yourself in the presence of God

Begin all prayer, whether mental or vocal, by an act of the Presence of God. If you observe this rule strictly, you will soon see how useful it is.

2. Spend an extended period of time in prayer each day, preferably in the morning

Give an hour every day to meditation before dinner;–if you can, let it be early in the morning, when your mind will be less cumbered, and fresh after the night’s rest. Do not spend more than an hour thus, unless specially advised to do so by your spiritual father.

3. Find a hidden place to make your prayer, away from everyone else

If you can make your meditation quietly in church, it will be well, and no one, father or mother, husband or wife, can object to an hour spent there, and very probably you could not secure a time so free from interruption at home.

4. Focus on quality, not quantity

[Do not strive] to say many words so much as seeking to say a few with your whole heart. One Our Father said devoutly is worth more than many prayers hurried over.

5. If you can’t pray in the morning, find a suitable alternative later in the day

If it should happen that your morning goes by without the usual meditation, either owing to a pressure of business, or from any other cause (which interruptions you should try to prevent as far as possible), try to repair the loss in the afternoon, but not immediately after a meal, or you will perhaps be drowsy, which is bad both for your meditation and your health. But if you are unable all day to make up for the omission, you must remedy it as far as may be by ejaculatory prayer, and by reading some spiritual book, together with an act of penitence for the neglect, together with a steadfast resolution to do better the next day.

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Written by Raphael Benedict

Prayer for God’s protection

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