What are the three pillars of Lent?
Around Lent, I love to talk about the three pillars of Lent for a few reasons. I never knew about them until I was in college. Fr. Adam would give talks about Lent whenever the season started, and he always stressed the three pillars of Lent, which are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. After I learned about the three pillars of Lent, I never approached Lent the same again. I still struggle with my Lenten sacrifices, but understanding how I should fill up my time and what I should focus on has helped me be more intentional during Lent. Now, I love to write about the three pillars of Lent because I hope that you can learn more about them and have a more fruitful Lent because of them. So this year, I wanted to do a mini series on the three pillars of Lent, starting with prayer.
The Importance of Prayer
I always try to stress the importance of prayer in my writing. My family and teachers instilled good prayer habits in me when I was little, and as I grew up, those habits grew and I found a love for prayer because of my friends from the Newman Center and the FOCUS missionaries I met in college. Because of them, I strive to pray every day. God truly is who I love the most. He’s the center of my life, so my time in prayer is the precious time that I spend with Him getting to know Him more and falling more in love with Him.
I realize that I always heard of prayer as a “conversation with God,” and I tend to describe prayer in this way, especially when someone asks me what prayer is. After listening to some old episode of the Crunch, my favorite Catholic podcast, I realized two things. First, not everyone knows how to hold a conversation nowadays. Second, having a conversation with God isn’t the same as having a conversation with just anyone. I’m definitely guilty of forgetting these things, so I hope that this blog can clarify the conversational aspect of prayer to help you during your time in prayer.
Practical Prayer Tips
Praying isn’t like texting, Snapchatting, or simple small talk. You don’t get a message and wait until you feel like replying. Prayer requires being present. Like a conversation, prayer involves talking and listening to God. Often, we can get caught up in the talking part. Maybe we spend so much time telling Him about what’s going on in our lives or giving our intentions to Him that we forget to take a step back and listen. Sometimes I genuinely forget to do this, and sometimes I’m afraid to do this. Listening to God’s voice in prayer requires vulnerability. It can be scary, but it’s a necessary part of prayer. It takes time and patience to hear His voice, but that’s why we commit to praying every day. Prayer is all about getting to know God more, so the more we pray, the more we can recognize God’s voice.
In this way, when we talk to God in prayer, it isn’t like talking to someone face-to-face. We don’t always “hear” God respond to us right away, and when He does, it might happen unexpectedly. For example, He can speak to you through Scripture as you read and learn more about Him. He can reveal an image or a memory out of nowhere, like He does for me sometimes.
While we can always talk to God and tell Him what’s on our heart, He hears us just as much when we pray with Scripture or prayers like the Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. These prayers are powerful, but sometimes we can get sucked into their repetitiveness and daydream or get distracted. When this happens, it’s important to keep bringing our attention back to Him and allow the repetition to deepen our contemplation.
Prayer as a Sacrifice
During Lent, we should strive to spend more time in prayer and grow deeper in our prayer life. We’re called to make sacrifices during Lent, and showing up to pray in and of itself is a sacrifice because we’re saying “yes” to being with God and saying “no” to something else we’d rather do. When we pray, we give of our time so that we can be with God and come to know Him more. No matter how you pray this Lent, I encourage you to commit to your prayer time. Be present and listen to what He’s telling you. It might not feel fruitful at first and you might not hear Him at first, but don’t let that discourage you from staying consistent. When you give God an inch, He’ll give you miles and miles back.
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In case you need some ideas, here are 8 different ways to pray this Lent:
- Read the Bible
- Pray Lectio Divina
- Go to Mass or read the daily Mass readings
- Pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration
- Pray the Rosary
- Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy
- Pray the Stations of the Cross
- Make a daily Examen of Conscience
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