There can be many reasons a person may struggle with a prayer life. “It’s so easy to pray if I’m in pain ... but in the day to day, when things get lost or I get distracted, then it doesn’t happen,” says one Trenton Diocese parishioner. File photo of St. Mary of the Lakes Church, Medford
There can be many reasons a person may struggle with a prayer life. “It’s so easy to pray if I’m in pain ... but in the day to day, when things get lost or I get distracted, then it doesn’t happen,” says one Trenton Diocese parishioner. File photo of St. Mary of the Lakes Church, Medford
" I always understood that God knew me and loved me personally. But I remember thinking that I wasn’t ‘Catholic enough’ to pray. "

Annie Nason admits that she used to think there was a “cookie-cutter way of praying,” but once she decided to include God in the things that she already enjoyed, a new form of prayer emerged.

“I used to journal a lot, but only about my day ... but now I feel like [my journal] is where my connection with God is; it’s much easier to write my prayers down than to say or think them out loud,” said Nason of St. Leo the Great Parish, Lincroft.

This practice, she said, stemmed from having challenges in her prayer life.

“I think generally that I don’t like to carve out a time of prayer in my day. I have a fear that it’s going to be dry,” she said.

Nason is not alone in facing challenges when it comes to prayer. There can be many reasons a faithful person doesn’t pray, ranging from anger or avoiding a painful experience to meeting life’s daily responsibilities.

However, in the words of St. John Paul II, “Prayer gives light by which to see. That is why you must not give up praying! … Prayer is a duty, but it is also a joy because it is a dialogue with God through Jesus Christ!” (then-Pope John Paul II, Audience with Young People, March 14, 1979, “In Conversation with God,” Volume One [pg. 215]).

Nason says that for her, praying can sometimes get lost in the mundane parts of life. “I find it easy to pray when I’m suffering or joyful, and difficult when I’m not experiencing any extremes,” she said. “It’s so easy to pray if I’m in pain ... but in the day to day, when things get lost or I get distracted, then it doesn’t happen.”

Rebecca Hill, a member of St. Joseph Parish, Millstone, can relate. As a graduate student in Drexel University, Philadelphia, praying depends on what is going on each day.

“I pray regularly but not rigidly,” she said. “I have a busy schedule, and I know that my master’s degree is what God has asked me to do ... so [prayer] looks different every day.” 

She shared that in her experience, the most challenging part about praying is actually making the decision to sit down and pray.

“I feel like every night when the time comes to pray, there’s always some resistance,” Hill said. “I don’t want to start ... I see it as similar to going to the gym – you just have to get there ... showing up is 90 percent of the battle. Once I show up, I’m good, but there’s always a temptation not to pray.”

Both women admitted that comparison to other people’s prayer lives can be deterring for their own.

“I always understood that God knew me and loved me personally,” Nason said. “But I remember thinking that I wasn’t ‘Catholic enough’ to pray.”

Said Hill, “Sometimes I think I should really be praying longer than I do … sometimes I think [others] are praying more than me.  

“I like to pray at night, but if I’m doing dishes or I’m driving on my commute, I try to think of someone to offer it up for,” she continued. “That gives the small thing meaning and I get to love people in different ways.”

Nason says that there was a change in her prayer life when she stopped putting so much pressure on herself and realized that there’s no magic formula. It’s easiest and most rewarding to simply try and “keep things honest.”

“You can’t pull the wool over God’s eyes, so I just try to bring to him whatever I’m feeling,” she said.