A Universal 2019 New Year’s Resolution & Proposal

With the shadow of last year now cast, and the New Year’s first day upon us, I sit here prayerfully pondering what could be an American, if not a worldwide, New Year’s resolution for this coming year?

If I’m seeking to be consistent with our previous essays and the stated mission here at Strugglin’Catholic.com, the New Year’s resolution proposed here should be practical, spiritual and easily accessible to all readers, yet prompting a bit of prayerful reflection and or growth in the hearts and minds of readers…

It should be firmly grounded in the Gospel, seeking God’s grace and will for those we love: our selves, families and  the greater communities that we live and work in including the whole world!

Perhaps, and ideally – as a Gospel oriented resolution – it should also be one that can ALSO be understood, because of our human contexts, as one that seeks God’s grace and will ALSO for our enemies or perhaps a stated enemy.

In a perfect worldthat resolution would somehow be able to also impact all of those who are in most need of God’s mercy.  We are now talking about individuals, families and communities caught up in poverty, sub standard housing and employment issues… those living with violence or in/with drug infested communities/issues or with poor schools and inadequate healthcare…

And those of all backgrounds and ages who are living with and in despair, hopelessness, homelessness and in the agony or constant pain, whether of physical or other origin…  Since we all know this is not a perfect world, please forgive me when I fail in my attempt to offer such catch all New Year’s resolution…

Somehow it would also NOT forget the many seniors, veterans, children and the physically or mentally challenged – those who are rarely acknowledged…  … Or those who are willfully forgotten, like the myriads who are ‘enslaved’ in contemporary America’s sex market, illegal business practices, etc.

Hopefully and by God’s grace, it can be one that will positively impact our current world’s social and political developments, just as it can also positively impact our individual prayer and spiritual life, prompting both to grow in accordance with God’s will.

In short, we are talking about a resolution that can bless our lives as it touches American from every background, lifestyle and tradition…

Finally it should also be concrete and focused enough to be able to address current events,  yet also open and having the width and breadth to be able to anticipate even the unprecedented – which always await us each year…

What personal and individual New Year’s resolution can possibly ever fulfill and address all of these realties?  Its kind of funny, even though comedy is not my intent… And being  far from perfect,  please forgive me, despite being very serious

But it is…

To spend three good morning minutes each day – actively, willfully and passionately praying simply, that…

May God’s will be done, regarding President Trump!

Don’t pray for what you want regarding President Trump – whether an impeachment, a second term, etc. – just simply pray that May God’s will be done regarding President Trump!

If I can promise you nothing else, I can promise you this: that by praying this prayer daily as a New year’s resolution, both your prayer and prayer life will be transformed!!!

As a New Year’s spiritual resolution to pray a specific prayer for a whole year, you are dedicating and training yourself, as both a Christian and an American, to bring and extend your specific prayers and prayer life toward focusing on the community as a whole, not just your life and concerns.

This resolution can also train us to hone and direct our prayer and prayer life towards its proper goal, which is God’s will.  I believe this can be especially hard regarding persons or realities for which or whom we have very strong emotions/feelings – and for most, President Trump fits this bill to a tee!!!

On an every-day-change-your-life-in-a-powerful-way manner, regularly praying this emotionally charged, yet concrete and political New Year’s resolution after a month or two, may even lead you – by grace – to begin to creatively ponder and to actively seek, instead of sitting back and passively awaiting, God’s will to manifest in your life…

“Whoa, now!!” you say? “Sounds kinda scary…” I say, “Yea! … but in a scary good kinda way!!!”

Whether you choose to use and add our Strugglin’Catholic’s New Year’s resolution to your other resolutions is up to you…

However, whatever the resolution(s) you finally settle on and choose this year, I simply ask that you prayerfully bring them before God before starting them…

For even in the perennial common sense New Year’s resolutions like beginning to workout, diet, budget and tithe, visit Aunty Jane each month, or to limit drinking, etc., prayer can infuse a grace that can make this year’s attempt different than those in the past, allowing you to -this time – find that illusive success.

Also, I ask that whatever your resolution is, after bringing it to God in prayer, to please end your prayer with the following:  “…that in and with this resolution, may Your will be done. Amen.”

 

Have a Blessed and Grace Filled New Year!!!

 

 

 

On Christmas Peace & Joy

My prayer for every person reading this is that at some point during this Christmas season, you will  ‘find yourself’ experiencing and resting in the joy and peace of Christmas…

Experiencing Christmas peace and joy is a grace that comes from and rests in God alone – there is nothing one can do to earn or acquire it…   It is a divine gift that may or may not be experienced each year, for any number of reasons…

Unfortunately, these ‘reasons’ are because the adages that life ‘happens and takes no prisoners’ are often true: unforeseeable realities do occur which can steal or seemingly make impossible realizing the promises of experiencing Christmas peace and joy in any given year…

Either way, whether graced with Christmas peace and joy or not, all are STILL called to praise and thank God, for He is the Reason for this season…

By God’s grace, I have received and am STILL tasting Christmas peace and joy in my life this year – And in a nuanced manner unlike ever received before…  I know I am not alone…

Overwhelmed by and in gratitude for this gift, my heart now prayerfully ponders – yet already knowing – how this graced peace and joy has come to us this year…

How?

I suspect, simply as a loving response from a God who simply refuses to be out loved by His children… Perhaps, for some each year who’ve accepted Advent’s invitation to somehow and in some way prepare for Christmas, God allows their reservoir of insights and reflections to gracefully build up and fermented during Advent…

Can it be that just sometimes, all the – interior work in love of heart & mind – devotional prayers, reflections, resting and being with His Presence, extra or well prayed rosaries and Masses, etc., may actually move God’s Infinite Heart to sometimes simply love us back?   If only and so as to show us that, God responds to and can not be out loved!!!  

Can it be that sometimes God pours His inebriating gift of fine divine wine into chosen souls as Christmas joy and peace, simply as a “I love you back” gift moment?

How?

I believe many simply have been pregnant with God’s peace and joy this whole year…  Think about your year of Angelic Annunciations and invitations to ‘bear and bring Christ to others’ that you have – sometimes agonizingly and reluctantly said ‘yes’ to by grace – since last Christmastime…  Each tiny ‘yes’ nurtured that timely and holy, natural and spiritual gift that was growing within all year… a gift that was finally born now, during this season…

Like the first Christmas which ended Mary’s nine month pregnancy with the birth of Jesus, for many parents with children Christmas day is the end to an exhaustive year long period of physical, economic, domestic, religious, emotional, academic, etc. preparation and work. Parents, students and children are among those for whom this imagery is especially apt.

Christmastime can give birth to graced periods of rest and peaceful joy to these and for all who have travelled the year long roads of faith, struggle and sacrifice to grow. For many, I believe receiving this anticipated Christmas Peace is simply the holy fruit of their year’s faith filled and obedient labor.

However we may come to prayerfully and in gratitude, come to ascertain why God gifted us with Christmas peace and joy this specific year, one thing is for certain: this gift is not for us to hoard but to share!!

We know from the scriptures, that all of God’s gifts are given for the good of the community…

We also know and see, as revealed in the actual Gospel story of the Annuciation – when the  Angel came to Mary and she accepted God’s invitation to bear Jesus – that when accepting God’s gifts, we are often given opportunities to bringshare and give them to others during the Christmas season.

In Luke’s Gospel, the angel also shared with Mary that her elderly Aunt Elizabeth was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. The Living Gift of Love in her womb, Jesus, prompted Mary by charity – who was in her first trimester – to travel almost 3 days to both spend three months caring for her elderly aunt and also to celebrate the birth of the coming Messiah, Jesus…  We, like Mary,  must also be attentive to opportunities this season to be and to  share our Christmas gifts with others…

In some cases, sharing God’s Christmas gift may mean actively proclaiming and celebrating it with others – as in forcing ourself to go to THAT GOOD holiday party (ha, ha)!!!  In other instances it can and will also mean slowing down to quietly share it peacefully with others…

These are the cases where or when we are called to patiently be with or listen to others who are still seeking or are without Christmas peace and joy this year.  In these instances, we have to learn how to be and bring peace to others in our person/persona/presence and actions, and not always by using our word if we are to truly give them, by grace, a sense of our gifted peace…

I am almost certain that there may be an instance or two, when the Gift of Christmas Peace and Joy will prompt you to an unexpected and unprecedented act of kindness and charity – whooa now, you say!!!! It’s okay, go on, give that homeless person that $5 or $10 dollar bill or step up and give that relative what they DON’T expect but really need and want!!!!

Don’t be surprised if Christmas peace and joy in your soul creates gospel opportunities, like at THAT aforementioned Christmas party, when UNEXPECTEDLY your heart prompts you to converse with, befriend and maybe even mend fences with/offer forgiveness to someone from the past… You may even be so very tempted, to actually accept that 10+ year standing-but-never-acted-on family member’s party invitation this season…

In short, if you have been gifted with God’s Peace and Joy this season, please, please, please pass it on! Share it NOW, with others, while you got it…

Only in this way can…

…Christmas truly become a season for  ALL in our communities…

…God be truly given the glory, as the gift will grow and spread to other’s lives….

…The holy intent of the gift really be met: which is for it to flow freely to and through others before returning back to God its source…

Only in this way, can we authentically proclaim God as our Savior, walking as witnesses and disciples who are testifying to the reality of His Peace & Joy…

Let all receiving Christmas peace and joy this year, step forward to proclaim in word and deed, “…how even in a year like this, when  (fill in the ____________) happened to me… God has still walked with, carried and granted me His Peace…”

And so once again, my prayer for every person reading this is that at some point during this Christmas season, you will  ‘find yourself’ experiencing and resting in the joy and peace of Christmas…  By grace, when and if you do, please don’t hoard it, but be proactive and pass it on!

 

One take on ‘the core’ of Christmas…

Hands Exchanging Wrapped Gift

At its core Christmas – both spiritually and naturally – is about the sharing of holy love among family.

For it was out of Holy Love, that at the first Christmas, God shared His only begotten Son with humanity – inviting us to join God’s family and Kingdom – thereby setting the context for all Christmases to follow as a holiday of graced and holy sharing among family.

Throughout the ages and for over twenty centuries, our broken world of families has paused each year to gather, remember and live out anew God’s Gospel’s and that first Christmas. That Holy Night, God modeled and by grace now empowers the seasonal and sacred acts of giving, receiving and gathering to be family that we continue even today.

“…at the core of  family life and love

are found the sacred acts of

    Giving, Receiving and Gathering in Love…”

Throughout history, just as family life has always been experienced in a myriad of forms, individuals have always lived as members of multiple and different kinds of family units throughout the course of their lives.

My prayer this Christmas, is that in at least one or more of your core human families – your nuclear, extended, work, social, digital or religious/church families, etc. – that you have been gifted with and in love this Christmas season!

It is also, that you have or will be received in and with love at some point during this Christmas season!

Finally, my prayer is that some how and in some way, you have already or will experience the grace and joy of gathering and being accepted as family this Christmas season!

Have a Holy and Merry Christmas season!

By Grace may you share, be, give and receive together with the various families of your life in Holy Love this Christmas Season!

 

On Getting God’s Special Gift this Christmas!!!

Advent can be a very special time of the year for Catholics.  It is that brief time allocated each December for us to reflect on the past year as we simultaneously prepare ourselves to receive – in some way – God anew!  

Each year, God’s Christmas Gifts will come to us in a myriad of different ways over the course of our lives: from finding new or restoring broken relationships with family and friends, to getting that grade or job that we wanted, etc.   At every age and stage of our journey, whatever  gift God  gives or allows to manifest in our lives, we can truly rest assured that 1) they are the best gifts available for us…  2) they are given to be used in and for the community.

If you think about it, the best gifts are almost always those that will somehow address bothwhat we needand also what we want in life!!!  I believe that God, knowing our hearts and the journeys that we are currently on, seeks to give each one of us just such a gift each year – one that will address boththe desires of our hearts and the needs for our lives… 

Unfortunately, I also believe that each year some of us will fail to receive God’s Gift simply because we did not take or make the time in Advent to prepare for it…  To dream of and to see it… To hope for it…  To name, pray and to ask for it, even with that molecular sized faith of ours…

In Jesus’ parable of the Wedding Banquet found in Matthew Chapter 22, it is at verse 11 where we find out that the one who did not adequately prepare and dress for the Banquet was thrown out!!!  

In the same manner, I believe many Christians are thrown out of God’s Christmas Gift line each year simply because they have refused to adequately prepare to receive it…   

Who knows, maybe they think that they DON’T need to prepare to receive God’s gifts…  Perhaps they are simply spiritually unaware and ignorant of God’s desires to actually give them gifts each year (really?)… Or, can it possibly be, like our own first-world-spoiled kids and grand kids, that they simply believe that they deserve and should be given these gifts, without preparation…

Gobble! Gobble! Gobble! Gobbling Up Gratitude Yearly!

As a high school teacher, I used to invite my students to do an extra credit assignment for Thanksgiving each year – but it was due on the Monday before Thanksgiving!!!   Since this extra credit assignment would elevate an ‘F’ quiz to a ‘B’ or makeup a skipped assignment, almost 95% of the class completed it!  What was the assignment?

Write a five paragraph Thanksgiving Reflection sharing: one paragraph explaining a gift you received in the last calendar year, one explaining an event you attended in the last calendar year, one explaining a new relationship (with a person or group) started in the last calendar year and one sharing a problem (it doesn’t have to be solved yet) that you encountered in the past calendar year.

In each paragraph, state what the event was and why you are grateful for encountering it this year.  End with a paragraph that summarizes, using an image, what this year has been like for you and briefly explain how it reflects your last year of life.

On the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we would spend the class sharing and talking about what we were grateful for. Each class always went the same way: after one student opened up the floodgates, the story sharing would continue until the bell rang…   Each year after Thanksgiving, students would share how doing this reflection and sharing it in class helped to transform their holiday.

Many students often discussed how their reflection on the past year allowed them to actually see their own growth (or their family’s) in the past year – something few teens get the chance to share and talk about openly. Some talked about how it helped them to see how others have helped and loved them throughout the year.

Just hearing others share the why’s they are grateful for the specific gifts they have received or about the new relationships started seemed to magnify our common understanding and appreciation of gratitude as we approached the holiday.  Surprisingly, a few students even remembered and mentioned it in their end of the year evaluations – seven months later!!!

Now as a chaplain, I continue to do as I used to do back then as a teacher: I do this reflection each year, for myself!  In doing so, I to have relearned that I must make and take the time to critically reflect on each holiday’s real meaning – each year – if I want them to remain meaningful as my life changes.  Here are my brief Thanksgiving Reflections for this year…

Gift:   The new Camry Hybrid that I purchased last November… After driving a 2002 Lexus for years, it was very nice to FINALLY move into this century automotively, with things like Bluetooth, a rear view camera, great gas mileage, etc.  I am grateful because this purchase reminded me of the blessings that new technology can bring to everyday activities like driving. The purchase has highlighted the importance of staying technically up to date – if just because of the safety considerations – as I age.

Event:  The six weeks spent caring for my wife as she recovered from a hip replacement surgery this summer.  It was an extremely important event for both of us and we are grateful to God for making it possible for me to attend and care for her. This period gave us insights into and a foretaste of the care we may have to provide for one another as we age.  This time has allowed me to ponder and to prepare for it more realistically now than ever before.

Problem: It surfaced this spring as I had to decide whether I was going to continue and complete the Chaplain Residency program in August – with an extra and unnecessary credit! Or, whether I was going to leave it June after securing my final credit for board eligibility and begin searching to find a job! Almost all, from my wife and colleagues to friends, suggested that I should stay and complete the program for various reasons, but God told me in prayer to leave it and walk by faith! So that is what I did…

…And what did God do?  God showed out and once again proved to me that standing on faith is the only way to go!!!   By the time my resident peers graduated out of the residency program in August, I had already been working for almost a month in the field as a chaplain…

New Relationship/Community: The St. James/Franciscan Health Community that I am serving as a chaplain. Since starting in August, it has been simply a joy to walk with and to serve both my peers and patients in this Catholic healthcare community.  I am soooo graced and also grateful to – once again – be working closely with others who are on firein loving the Lord and in serving His people!

Image: I envision myself as an opened book lying flat on a table – the Book of My Life – with roughly two thirds of the pages turned or read and lying to the left of the book’s spine… The right page of the book is beginning a new chapter in my life that includes aging, empty nesting and how God is now calling me to serve through chaplaincy and writing…

Each year I do this reflection, it always summarizes the year’s memories for me and slathers them with a heavy dose of gratitude…

By God’s grace, I am able to glimpse – a bit clearer in retrospect – just how God’s hand providentially guided me through yet another year. This is by far – one of the greatest blessings of this reflection, especially as we end the liturgical year.

I invite you to review your past year one last time– through the lens of gratitude focusing on specific gifts, events, new/restored relationships and problems…

In it, may you come to see more clearly how God’s Spirit continues to walk with you and has guided you,  protected and/or restored and healed you this past year…

May your holiday celebration flow from and rest in a true Thanksgiving, one nurtured by gratitude and grounded in the graces that undergirds your memories…

On Using Old School Methods for reaching New Year’s Resolutions

digital_resolutions-100019466-largeWhat will be new for you this New Years? New Years Day is the day and week where many begin their chosen New Year’s resolutions for the year. I, like many others, have outlined my resolutions in terms of the goals I hope to achieve this coming year. Irregardless of the form that one’s resolutions may take, each one of us knows in our hearts that the “boot camp” starts this week!!! For this secular equivalent of our Catholic Lent to be successful, we must some how tap into and use those tried and true “old school methods” if we are really gonna, by God’s grace, reach the goals we have set for ourselves this New Year.

 

 

One old school method useful for creating the new you in 2016 is the practice of planning how we are going to meet these goals. Now that you have identified your goals, take this week to research and plan how you will achieve them this year; a week of good planning can help one avoid the potholes and mistakes the other fifty-one week of this year. Planning will break your goals into bite-size chunks that can easily be integrated into and worked on each day. With planning, the vision and hope of our goals becomes piecemeal; our vision is shifted and we can begin to focus on the daily tasks at hand, worrying less about our list goals. Common examples include planning how to save $50 a week on food by couponing, catching sales, shopping multiple store, planning meals for the week, making bag lunches, etc.. The concrete work of implementing the nuts and bolts of our plan creates a new perspective, experience and vision in our lives that somehow and in a sneaky kind of way, replaces what was once there.

 

 

Another old school method applicable for reaching our 2016 New Year’s resolutions is that of making and accepting some willful sacrifice in order to make these dreams a reality. Any intrinsically good and graced goal that we have ever dreamt of, from family and career to our financial goals, has only been achieved when we have willfully crossed that the bridge of sacrifice. Making “the sacrifices” does not guarantee us success; there are many who have made the “worthy sacrifice” but have fallen short… Yet, even most of these will still agree that to hope for true love, a viable career or a loving family – without making and accepting the sacrifices these realities calls for, is simply to truly dream and guarantee its deferment! By taking a week to plan how you will attack your resolutions for this year, you will find that it will clearly identify and uncover exactly what you will have to sacrifice in order to reach your goals for this year. Knowing, having and living with an, “ its time to suck it up and tighten my belt” attitude is necessary if our 2017 goals are going to be different than this year’s.

 

 

A final old school tool useful for creating the new you and reaching your 2016 goals is that of constantly praying over and for your 2016 resolutions. Even though we know that prayer is the most fundamental of all the spiritual exercises, how often do we employ it as a long-term method for reaching our New Year’s resolutions?   If the power of prayer can change the world, what can it do for our resolutions? Over the years, I have found that by consistently praying over my New Year’s resolutions, miracles can happen… By prayer, my selfish, misguided and outright bad resolutions have been identified, changed and/or adjusted in the light of grace… By prayer, many selfish motivations that I have had for good New Year’s resolutions were eventually identified, purified and transformed by God’s grace… In my morning prayer over the years, I have had to both remember and humbly share/bare my failed/ignored/tough New Year’s resolutions to God, Who graciously renewed my faith in, strengthened and restored my fractured hope in and deepened my love in this yearly practice as a Strugglin’Catholic who is prayerfully seeking daily growth in holiness. Yes, prayer can and does make not only a difference, but often it is the difference!

 

 

As we begin 2016 this week, let’s first thank and praise God for the gift of seeing another New Year! As we, in gratitude for this gift, make our final considerations for New Year’s resolutions this week, the Strugglin’Catholic prays that by God’s grace, your resolutions are in accordance with God’s will. Please pray with us, that the Holy Spirit will guide each of us in the choosing, planning, sacrificing for and praying about our specific New Year’s resolutions for this year.

God’s Fundamental Principal of Gift Giving

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From our earliest age, we clearly understood that Christmas was and is about gift giving and receiving…as young kids most of us enjoyed both the making of cards and gifts for our parents and, of course, the anticipating and receiving of gifts chosen specially for us. Yes, we have always known that Christmas is about gift giving and receiving… which leads Strugglin’Catholic.com to wonder, is it possible to find and live by one fundamental principle to generally guide one’s Christmas gift giving each year?

 

If there is such a principle, it can surely be found in the scripture stories of the First Christmas. In turning to these Gospel stories of Jesus’s birth, both symbols and signs make it clear that God’s gift to humanity is the Gift of God’s Self – given as His only begotten Son! We find God giving the Gift of God’s Self to us here at the beginning of the gospels, as Jesus Christ, to save and redeem us from sin…and then once again after the Ascension at the Pentecost when God sent Jesus’ promised Gift of God’s Self to us via baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Gift of the Holy Spirit guides us in continuing Jesus’ mission here on earth while also sanctifying us on the journey in preparation for heaven.

 

If there was or is one fundamental principle to guide our Christian gift giving during this holy season, we here at Strugglin’Catholic.com vote for the principle of truly giving yourself away in the gifts you give. Examples abound both in the scriptures and in our own graced histories: the giving of our time or our talents – especially when if one has a very busy life… or the sacrificing of one’s time and energy by making an enduring commitment as a gift… giving a loved one another chance or the light of hope to keep strugglin’ or continued faith in tough times… the gift to your church of becoming a prayer warrior and spending time daily to pray for those in your life… giving your child that instrument which will ruin your home’s silence or that pet that will probably disrupt your home life… giving hope plus couple of hundred dollars to the nephew/niece living in the aftermath of a bad decision or two, etc. All these examples of giving ourselves away reveal that our gift giving can, with prayer, be prayerfully tailored for each person in our lives…

 

Which gifts of self we choose to present to our loved ones each year can be figured out by simply bringing all of our children’s/loved one’s/personal ideals for presents this year to God in prayer… It is an interesting exercise to pray over one’s gift list each year, hoping in faith that one’s gifts reflect God’s principle of giving one’s self away in the gift. Prayerfully reflecting on our gift giving teaches us as much about ourselves and lives as it does about God and Christmas – especially when these reflections are prayerfully linked to the Gospel.

 

Here at Strugglin’Catholic.com we invite you to follow God’s example by seeking to give the gift of yourself away this Christmas! Just as God gave the gift of God’s self: God’s only begotten Son – Jesus, our prayer for all is that by the promised Holy Spirit, we may all imitate God this year and give ourselves away, thus, truly bringing Christmas love and joy to all.

 

Reviewing Our Prayer Lives as the New Year Approaches

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AT the end of the year many systematically review a number of key life areas: from one’s finances to one’s health, from one’s relationships to one’s vocational choices.   Many who do not have such major decisions often review the past year’s success and failures, often in preparation for making some kind of New Year’s resolution. Whether this Christmas finds you contemplating large decisions or simply reviewing the past year, let us here at the Strugglin’ Catholic.com offer you one more point to reflect on in preparation for the New Year, that is your prayer life.

 

When was the last time, if ever, did you complete an end of the year systematic review of your prayer life? It is an interesting question to ask, given the spiritual and holy nature of the season. Advent is a season when Catholics are invited to prepare our hearts that we may receive our God and King anew this year. For Catholics as with all people of faith, prayer is one of the fundamental core spiritual practices that supports and deepens both our relationship with God and love for others. Knowing this, regularly evaluating our prayer life in some manner seems to make sense if we are planning to spiritually grow in the coming year. Away of preparing our hearts to receive the Lord anew this year is simply to do an honest review one’s prayer life.

 

Evaluating one’s prayer life can be as easy as examining when and what times one pray: upon waking? During the morning drive or commute… in the bathroom while dressing… before breakfast…. at night reviewing the day in light of our blessings and sins, etc.… The Strugglin’ Catholic.com suggests linking prayer to daily tasks in order to integrate prayer throughout one’s day. One can also evaluate what and how one prays: what do I pray for? …who do I pray for? …do I pray orally with traditional prayers or do I also talk to God using my own words? …do I talk all the time or do I also give God equal time by listening? …do I pray using the scriptures? …when praying in/with the community, what helps and what challenges my prayer experience?

 

Evaluating both what and how one prays and when and what times one prays can help uncover the various prayer routines, themes, agendas and habits that we have formed. By prayerfully and honestly evaluating this knowledge of ourselves and our prayer life, we will not only be preparing our hearts to better receive and worship the gift of Jesus that God seeks to give this Christmas, but also to share God’s love more fully with others this new year.