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Morning Prayer Practice

A man prays in front of a candle reflected in a drawing of a church

My prayer practices have varied over the years, as I’ve come across new materials and new ideas and as my schedule has changed, but with a general increase in time and discipline.

For a while, I kept up a somewhat irregular devotion to the canonical hours, using a daily psalm book I received as a gift when I converted. I loved the feeling of connection to texts dating back to the Old Testament and the sense of a monastic ritual. As a complete prayer routine, however, the Old Testament feel can use some Anno Domini leaven.

At periods, I’ve maintained a daily Rosary on my schedule, and it is a practice I recommend whole heartedly. On my desk sits a handmade leather notebook with pages that may very well have been fashioned by hand, as well. Its pages contain an as-yet incomplete penciled series of prayers built around the Rosary, with readings I selected to correspond with the Mysteries. For my own daily life and spiritual condition, however, the time and repetitive nature of this prayer led me to substitute more variety.

These days, I’ve settled into a routine that seeks to balance different forms of prayer, from Bible reading to credal recitation to requests for intercession to something more like meditation. In what follows, I describe the set of prayers with which I begin my day.

Upon waking, I thank God for allowing me another day to spend with Him in His creation. After taking care of some early necessities and stretching, I light a candle and kneel using a wooden library stepladder with a pillow on the lowest step. With a dash of holy water, I prepare myself, as I do for each of my daily prayer sessions, as follows:

I choose to be fully present in this moment, to observe it with all my senses, and to feel Your presence in it, oh sustaining God. I put myself fully in your embrace, to feel you support me, engulf me, enter me, as me. And moving forward from this moment, I choose to grow in my relationship with and understanding of You and to fulfill my role in your plan.

Depending on my mood or needs of the moment, I’ll exchange the adjective, “sustaining,” for something more relevant, such as “magnificent,” “comforting,” or “forgiving.” I inhale while whispering the phrase, “enter me,” for the sensation of air across my tongue, as that which God created communicating with me physically as a means of maintaining my existence.

I considered the phrase, “as me,” carefully, and recognize it as a point of risk if it takes too much of a New Agey tilt, and certainly, my full theological framework might strike some traditionalists as too far in that direction. However, today’s second reading at Mass offers the appropriate ballast: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him.” (1 Corinthians 6:15,17)

In the morning, my purpose is to prepare myself for the day, and I find it appropriate to frame that activity in terms of spiritual warfare. Over time, I cycled through the prayers published in a small booklet I picked up long ago in the shop at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, titled “Spiritual Warfare Prayers.” At some point, I simply memorized this one, which I found particularly powerful:

I armor myself today with the power of the Most Holy Trinity, in the oneness of God, Creator of the universe. I armor myself today with the baptism of Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection, his ascension and glorious second coming.

I armor myself today with God’s guidance to direct me, God’s might to sustain me, God’s wisdom to instruct me; God’s word to give me speech, Gods shield to protect me; Gods army to defend me against the snares of the demons, against the lure of vices, against all who plot me harm.

I invoke all these virtues today against every hostile and merciless power that may assail me, against the incantations of false prophets, against the black laws of heathenism, against the false laws of heresy, against the deceits of idolatry, against every art and spell that binds the soul to evil.

Christ guard me today against every poison, burning, drowning, and fatal wounding. Christ be with me, Christ be behind me, Christ be within me, Christ be beside me, Christ to win me. Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ to be where danger threatens, Christ be in the hearts of those around me forevermore.

Next, I turn my thoughts to daily reminders, blending together those of a spiritual nature with others that are more practical or targeted toward self-improvement. These change over time, and I’d encourage anybody who likes the idea of the list to make it his or her own. At the moment, I have 29:

  • Find something to appreciate in every moment.
  • Set aside dedicated time for God.
  • Everybody deserves attention and patience.
  • Break a sweat.
  • Play an instrument.
  • Never more than two alcoholic drinks.
  • Keep kids on schedule.
  • Spend special time with your children.
  • Challenge the status quo firmly and confidently; people are suffering out there.
  • Be moderate in your appetite.
  • Please your wife.
  • Charisma equals presence, warmth, and power.
  • Look for opportunity to get where you want to go no matter where it is you have to be.
  • Make menial tasks not menial.
  • Cultivate a desire to help in your children.
  • Continue with the self-analysis.
  • Ensure that every task is the highest and best use of your time, given circumstances.
  • When distracted with the need for engagement from others, don’t forget to consider those closest to you — God first among them.
  • Approach each day as an opportunity to spend time with the most important Person in your life.
  • Stay present in the moment, even as you think forward to the message you wish to send to God with your life.
  • Find the framing that makes the obscure or complicated obvious and simple.
  • Healing embraces reach out to God in others with your arms as His.
  • You matter so much that what happens to you matters very little.
  • In your community and in your work, you are here to learn; you do not need to win.
  • In the light of eternity, fidelity to God, not material achievement will shine.
  • The serenity of your heart cannot be disturbed if you live in God.
  • The path does not matter as much as the way in which you travel it.
  • Remember what world you live in.
  • Lord, Jesus, look at me through their eyes, and I will respond.

Having drawn myself into God’s presence in the moment, prepared myself as if for spiritual battle, and reminded myself of collected advice and wisdom, I call on Saint Michael:

Saint Michael, please pray for me that I will have the strength to resist the Devil’s temptation toward doubt, despair, anger, anxiety, indifference, lethargy, pride, and decadence and send an angel to guide and guard me throughout the day as I seek to do God’s will. Pray that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, will send His Spirit upon me so I may better understand my role in the Father’s plan. And please, Saint Michael, with my guardian angel, give me a sense of your presence so that I may feel myself a member of the community of souls and not be vulnerable to the isolation of the modern material world.

I tack on to this any specific needs I feel at that moment, whether for health or other aspect of life and then ask Saint Michael to “pray for my loved ones and send angels to guide and guard them all.” I name each of them, more or less from youngest to oldest, specifically naming any specific intentions for each, with strong emphasis on their health and growth in faith. For those who are deceased, I ask Saint Michael to “have your angels find her wherever she may be and draw her toward our Lord” (changing the pronouns as relevant). Having named my family members, I ask, “Saint Michael pray for my household.”

Next, I move outward, breathing in deeply as I zoom out from the globe in my mind and asking for prayers for escalating geographic units and the corresponding divisions of the Catholic Church. First is Tiverton, and I name the parishes in the town, followed by the State of Rhode Island and the Diocese of Providence, the United States of America and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and “all of us on the planet Earth and in the Roman Catholic Church.” At each level, I bring to mind any specific people who have acute needs at that time.

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