By Garth McCutcheon, Christ the King Parish, Foam Lake, SK
Approximately four years ago, I started to pray daily.
I owe the inspiration for this change in my life, primarily, to Matthew Kelly and the Dynamic Catholic Organization. I found the book “Rediscover Catholicism” in a church library and started reading it. The book inspired me to read other books by Matthew Kelly, which in turn inspired me to make some changes in my life.
One of the changes was to make daily prayer a habit. I am Catholic but I believe that my experience with prayer applies to all. We are all God’s people.
I have always prayed some, ever since I was young, but I never knew how to pray. I would pray when I needed something and then stop when the need went away or was fulfilled.
When I decided to pray daily, I did not know how to start or what to say. So, I started with the Rosary.
Over time, while I continued to pray the Rosary every day, I added a prayer of my own composition. It is comprised of bits and pieces that I picked up from other sources and some of my own ideas. It evolves regularly as world circumstances change. My daily prayer has four themes: Love, Humility, Gratitude and Intercession.
My intercession prayed before and after the Rosary goes like this: “Lord God Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Saviour and Redeemer, Holy Spirit Mentor and Guide. I come to You today to pray for a deep personal relationship with Jesus my Saviour and Redeemer, and for a pure heart and a healthy mind and body and I ask for these same blessings for my wife and for our family and friends and for all who seek you with a sincere heart, that through the intercession of our Holy Mother Mary and the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we might come ever closer to You, Lord God Heavenly Father, in love and humility, and to Your Holy Church on earth. Amen.”
Starting in January of this year, I instead prayed the 15 Prayers of St Bridget of Sweden and included the same intercession before and after. (Thank you to Ken and Janelle Yasinski of catholicspeaker.com for introducing me to the 15 prayers of St Bridget.)
A few weeks ago, during the season of Lent, I found that I was missing the daily Rosary and I also became aware of the need to pray daily for the souls in purgatory so I again began praying the Rosary daily with the same intercession.
I also added a new intercession before and after the 15 prayers of St Bridget: “Lord God Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Saviour and Redeemer, Holy Spirit Mentor and Guide I come to You today to pray for all the souls in purgatory, that You might look upon them with love, compassion and mercy. Amen.”
Also, starting on June 1, 2020, I added an intention to my pre-Rosary prayer for our Holy Father Pope Francis, Bishop Mark Hagemoen, and our priest Fr. Augustine Osei-Bonsu, as well as for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, and for the health, safety and well-being of those who are caring for the sick and for those who are providing for our daily needs.
I pray my own prayer on my knees which takes about 10 minutes.
Part of my prayer time is also combined with my exercise time, so that as I pray, I am exercising on my elliptical machine. Therefore one good habit reinforces the other, and helps me to not miss a day.
At the present time, my daily prayer including the Rosary and the 15 prayers of St Bridget take about 45 to 50 minutes. They are the best minutes of my day!
Why do I pray daily?
Now the obvious question is “Why do I pray daily?”
The answer is that I (like everyone) have bad habits. In order for me to become the best version of myself, I need to get rid of bad habits and replace them with good habits.
Daily prayer is a good habit and like many habits both good and bad, once you do it every day for a period of time, it becomes part of your day that you cannot do without. At least as important, daily prayer has changed me and changed my life.
A couple of years ago, I was praying about my future. I received a clear answer to pick up my guitar. So, I did – and within a few months, I had learned our current Mass parts and enough hymns that I was able to lead our parish in the music for our Mass and take my turn once a month or so, thus lightening the load for our other musicians. This has been a great blessing for me and I sincerely hope that my parish feels the same. I have also become kinder, more thoughtful, less opinionated, more faithful, more patient, more generous and more forgiving.
This spring, for the first time in many years, I have not experienced a significant bout of depression which has been a fixture of springtime for me for many years. This may not sound like much to you, but to me, it is an answer to my prayer! (At the same time, I do want to clarify that while my depression has been better as a result of daily prayer, I would not ever recommend that anyone stop their depression treatment when they start to pray. I continue to work with my family doctor to monitor my condition.)
In addition, I had an absolutely amazing but frightening experience a couple of weeks ago which only confirmed my faith that God is looking out for me. I was out on our neighbour’s dock in a very high wind, trying to rescue a piece of the dock that was threatening to blow away. When I picked it up, a strong gust of wind picked me and the dock piece up and tossed me into the water head first. My recollection is of my head hitting the bottom softly in sand or gravel. I was very shaken but managed to get out with my wife’s help and got inside and warmed up. When the wind had died down, we went and looked at the place I fell in, and there is nothing there but solid rock. There is no sand or gravel for my head to have landed in, yet I didn’t even have a bruise!
In these unusual times, we have all had the opportunity to look death in the eye (on the television screen) on a regular basis. Prayer is helping me to face these difficult circumstances with a calm mind and a hopeful heart. I know that the purpose of my life is to reach heaven and to help others to do the same. To do this, I am striving to become a ”prayer warrior” and my sword and my shield are prayer.
Why am I writing this?
The final question is: “Why am I writing this?”
One answer is that Jesus tells us in the Gospels to spread the good news and so I am seeking to share the solace, comfort and peace that can (and will) come from the habit of daily prayer. At least as importantly, this is an answer to my prayer about what I need to be doing in my life.
Over the years, when asked to pray for someone or for something, I would say “yes”, but then do nothing. Now, when I say that I will pray for you or for a needed change in the world, I actually do it every day!
Am I a saint? Certainly not! I am just a person who believes what Jesus told us about prayer and the way to eternal life. I know that there are lots of other people, more devout and more committed than I am. I encourage them to also share their experience with prayer for the good of all.