Pray without seasoning. This idea has been cooking (pun intended) in my mind for a while, but prayer is such a personal thing, that I hesitate to write much about it. However, I realized that is precisely why I want to share these thoughts with you. Prayer is a unique experience for everyone and it does not follow a one-size-fits-all mold. We should have the freedom to pray in the ways that we are most aware of God and of His movements.
So what do I mean by pray without seasoning? I mean that our prayer does not need to be spiced up. More than anything, Jesus wants our hearts, and He wants them raw. This is a bit of a twist on 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which says, “Pray without ceasing,” but I think these ideas walk hand in hand.
I think that oftentimes, we are under the impression that prayer only “counts” when we are in a chapel or before the Blessed Sacrament. Perhaps the Lord only hears when we are in a sacred space, right? Wrong. It is true, it may be easier for us to focus on the movements of the Spirit when we are in a quiet space, but the Lord is not limited by our circumstances.
There are no “right” ways to pray, and I think that is something that has been misunderstood. The number of times that I have sat in a group of people who have been reluctant to pray out loud for fear of “praying wrong” is both astounding and heartbreaking. The Lord is simply looking for an open heart and a space to move.
When we see prayer as a chore to check off the list, it is no longer a relationship. The Lord is not sitting in Heaven with a timer and a checklist making sure that you read Scripture, journal, and pray a Rosary all within an hour. More than anything, prayer is a relationship. It is a conversation between two friends who are seeking to grow in intimacy with each other. Though Sunday Mass is deemed an obligation by the Church, a relationship with Jesus is a choice.
I have seen this tendency to expect prayer to be a certain way in myself, especially with access to daily Mass and adoration. I sometimes get in the mindset that unless I pray a holy hour, go to Mass, and pray a Rosary, I am less of a Catholic. Somehow, I think I have let Jesus down, and He might love me less. I convince myself I did not spend enough time. Thankfully the Lord’s capacity for love is much larger than our broken human capacity. His love is not swayed or diminished because I did not sit in the chapel for a full hour.
Some days prayer might look like an hour before the Eucharist in adoration. Lovely! After all, this IS the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord. This is an in-person conversation versus a FaceTime. I will always advocate for adoration, but sometimes it just is not realistic. Some days prayer may look like half of a Rosary on the way to work and the other half on the way home. Perhaps you swap out your usual radio station for worship music. Simple drives can be opportunities for praise, worship, and prayer. Beautiful! Other days it may be a contemplative walk where you pray as you go. Stunning! Maybe you have a long day of work, school, or getting children where they need to be. Inviting the Lord to join you in every moment of your day is a form of prayer, and it is beautiful, powerful, and good.
Maybe you have trouble focusing. While silence is good, and it is good to be uncomfortable, prayer should not be a form of torture. If you find yourself dreading your time in prayer, find a new way to pray! As I said, the Father just wants your heart. He just wants you to approach Him and let Him love you. If you can’t find the words to say, just be. Sing Him a song, tell Him your intentions and let Mary bring them to His feet, or let the silence hang so that He might say what He wants to.
I know how much joy I get when I get to grab coffee with a friend, but sometimes I do not have time for a full hour long coffee date. Inviting someone to come grocery shopping with me is still quality time, and our relationship still grows in those moments. The Lord is no different.
His deepest desire is to grow in intimacy with you and I, and whatever you can give Him, He will take and multiply. Let Him see you and give him your raw heart. You do not have to impress Him with how much time you give or how intense your prayer is. Pray without seasoning.
Allison Dale is a sophomore at Kansas State University studying human development & family science and anthropology. She converted to the Church in September, and she finds joy in hammocking, long walks, little flowers, and pretty words. Her greatest joy, however, is being "big C" Catholic. You can find more of her words here.