7 ideas to propel you closer to God in the coming year
Not long ago, a good friend of mine was excited to explore a labyrinth on the beautiful grounds of a Kentucky seminary. He found it, but was disappointed. It wasn’t much of a prayer path at all; it was old, and worn—more of a pathetic prayer patio.
I knew how he felt. Sometimes our prayer paths get worn and weary. We need new ones now and then to revive and renew our energy and enthusiasm in prayer. There may be no better time than the beginning of a new year to scout out a new prayer path or two—or more. Here are some ideas:
1) Pick a new place.
A change of scenery can be a boon to prayer. Try out a bench in the park or spread a blanket by a lake. Or duck into a downtown church; many places of worship still open their sanctuaries for personal devotion during the day.
2) Start a new devotional book.
If you like to read, find daily inspiration and prayers in the pages of a book. It can be a one-year devotional (like Daily Guideposts, Mornings with Jesus, or my new release, The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional) or something shorter or undated, like A Diary of Private Prayer by Kenneth Baillie.
3) Motivate yourself with music.
Sacred music often moves the human heart to praise and prayer. So choose a new CD or playlist of worship music or hymns to listen to, say, on your daily commute. You may even want to program a reminder each month to switch to something new, and so keep the music—and the prayer—flowing.
4) Plan a silent retreat.
Few things are as conducive to prayer as silence. Even if you’re an extrovert, you may find a silent retreat—say, a morning in a garden or a whole day at a convent or monastery—to be a rewarding time of reflection and conversation with God.
5) Enlist a partner.
I discovered long ago that losing weight is much easier when my wife participates with me. Not just because her watchful eye keeps me honest, but also because her encouragement and companionship motivate me. That kind of support extends to spiritual matters, too. So invite your spouse or a friend to join you for times of prayer—in person, via email, or even over Skype or Face Time.
6) Start a new Sabbath practice.
The poet, essayist and novelist Wendell Berry has, for years, written a poem every Sabbath (he has published them in several collections). I once made a weekly habit of taking a walk every Saturday and, in addition to praying as I walked, taking at least one photo on the trip. You may take a drive once a week or pray as you putter in the garden, or try something else that makes it easier and more enjoyable for you to spend some time in prayer.
7) Engage a spiritual director.
People in some traditions have profited from spiritual direction for a long time; to others, it is a new concept. But what better time than a new year to try something new? Spiritual directors are companions and guides on the path of growing closer to God. There are different kinds of spiritual directors, of course, and the process sometimes involves trial-and-error. But spiritual direction is a helpful and rewarding prayer path for many.
You probably won’t want to try all of these simple suggestions, but you might try one or two—or be inspired by one of them to blaze a path all your own—and that can make a huge difference in your prayer life in the coming year.