This Lent has been an experience for me. Actually, this entire Nineveh 90 (N90) experience has been eye opening.
At the beginning of Lent, I stumbled on an article encouraging people to not just give something up, but to pray while giving something up. Reading the article was an ah-ha moment for me – but, instead of applying it to Lent, I applied it to my fasting and prayer life for the N90.
N90 has certainly helped teach me a few lessons – about myself, and about my faith life.
Prayer is integral to the N90 challenge – daily Rosary, the Angelus three times a day, and some other prayers affiliated with the Angelic Warfare Confraternity. In addition to the prayers already set on my alarm (Divine Mercy at 3 PM, and a prayer time for my husband), I confessed to our chaplain that I was tired of talking to God. In fact, I specifically had an experience in which my prayer alarm went off, I looked at it, and as I turned it off, told God I just did not want, nor was I willing, to pray.
Based on our conversation, the chaplain encouraged me to stop living by my prayer alarms. Instead, he encouraged me to become more spontaneous in my prayers, and foster the personal connection with God which included talking to Him, but also listening to Him. Because of the kids’ ages and small child shenanigans, we haven’t made it to Adoration, but I have spent more time in spontaneous, enriching prayer, than the outset of the challenge.
I was becoming discouraged that I wasn’t remembering words to some of the prayers and the chaplain’s recommendation was, in those times, to pray them anyway – even if I am just reading the prayers.
Furthermore, I struggle with not feeling prayers. I envy people who are moved by prayer, but it is extremely rare for me to be moved by the words or the action of praying. When I lamented this to our chaplain, he advised to, “Say them anyway.” Even if I feel as though all I am doing is reading a set of prayers, or simply saying them, he was emphatic in his instruction – pray anyway.
Prayer is a lifeline to our lifelong friend and companion – God. It invites Him into our day, and into our life. Praying to Him is an invitation – into our lives, and into a deeper relationship with us, whether the prayer is memorized and scripted, or spontaneous and unplanned. It is a way to signal the closeness we desire with Him – whether we are in a field, in a church, driving a car full of rambunctious children. He doesn’t care where or how we pray – He just desires that we want to talk to Him. And, it’s a way to deepen our friendship and relationship with Him. As St. Teresa of Avila is credited with saying,
N90 is a marathon, not a sprint. It is about building discipline – and, that includes spiritual discipline.
It is about building the discipline of putting my friendship with God on the front burner of my life, instead of having it linger on the back burner.
So, while I haven’t quite figured out the nitty gritty components of the N90 challenge, I’m pretty sure I’m getting one lesson under my belt…