Most people think that to pray well, they have to think pious thoughts and execute a whole series of devotions, but the truth is that prayer is about so much more than what we do. While taking time for devotions such as the Rosary and the Angelus (among others) is a great source of nourishing our interior life and stirring the fire of devotion, we must also make time for spontaneous, unscripted prayer in which we relate to the Lord with openness and honesty.

In this way, I recommend taking short 3-5 minute prayer/ meditation breaks throughout our days, especially when we are tired and stressed out. Often, disordered patterns of thinking, feeling, and desiring prevent us from experiencing our true potential in Christ. The following are 4 steps which serve as a guide.

1) Acknowledge: First, we start by simply looking at our experience with non-judgmental awareness. Instead of beating ourselves up about our racing thoughts and the tensions in our body, we can help relax our interior life by drawing our awareness to our breath and our heartbeat. As we do this, we can focus on simply allowing ourselves to feel what we are experiencing without trying to force it to go away. As we notice our breath and our heart beat, we want to pay attention to the signals that our body is sending us. Then, we can gently let our breath sooth the tensions in our body and so guide our heart beat with the breath towards a more relaxed state. The key here is gentleness.

Note: for some people, these psychosomatic techniques may not be helpful. If they cause you more stress than good, simply acknowledge what you are experiencing in ways that make sense to you. Keep in mind, these are merely suggestions.

2) Relate: As we experience our interior life and our body, we can now gently relate our experience to the Lord with either words, images, or any form of surrender that makes sense to us. We should try to cultivate a playful spirit as we see and give to the Lord both suffering and joy.

3) Receive: Now we take a moment to imagine what God wants to say to us. We can relate to God the Father, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit; whatever makes sense. Also, We can talk with Mary and the other saints. The idea is to focus on what the Holy Spirit stirs in our hearts as we imagine what they might tell us. Keep in mind, we must always practice discernment and realize that not all inspirations are the work of the Holy Spirit. In this way, we must sort through our inspirations in a spirit of playful exploration.

4) Respond: Having received, we now respond in any way that makes sense to us. Then, we repeat the steps in a pattern of acknowledging, giving, and receiving.

Using these four steps as a guide, I recommend taking short meditation breaks throughout your day!