Small Beginnings: One Practice I Used to Encourage More Focused Prayer

It began with a jar.

An extra jar leftover from the holiday season, currently out of use, and just sitting around my kitchen. ‘Why do I always buy too much instead of just enough?’ I’d wondered. It was a dollar; I’m not going to the trouble of queueing in a line to return it for a dollar.

So it’s been sitting in my kitchen, for no other reason than it seemed a good place to keep breakables.

I’m in a mood to create more order and find spaces for things. It’s been several months since we moved into our new place, and we’ve ‘settled’ as much as one can, but, I still don’t have my old nook for prayer. I’m giving serious consideration to having a dedicated prayer space now.

A Place For Prayer

In a symbolic gesture of beating my sword into a plow, I convert my writing desk into an altar by pushing it against one wall of my office, draping a never-used-before white tablecloth over it, and adding a candle, a few spiritual books I’ve been meaning to begin reading, and a Rosary. It’s still quite empty, but it’s a start. It briefly crosses my mind — ‘What will I use if I begin writing again?’ and I dismiss the thought. When the time comes for that (if the time comes at all), God will show me how to move forward.

That’s been my rule of thumb a lot lately — blind faith. I don’t particularly like it, it’s too contrary to my ‘everything planned out in advance, all my i’s dotted and t’s crossed’ personality. Leaving room open in my heart to be led by God means that there’s room for error, and I hate being wrong. Which makes today particularly difficult, as I’m going to be participating in the sacrament of reconcilation. What’s that if not admitting to a whole list of wrongs…?

I need to pray more. Consistent prayer is an area that I struggle with, and this is what my confessor latches onto in the sacrament of reconciliation, offering me some advice of how to better incorporate prayer into my daily life.

One of the stories that particularly struck me was that of a woman (unidentified of course) who used to bring a jar to work and began placing prayers in the jar. Eventually, her coworkers began asking her to pray, and the jar’s contents grew. That little jar was the small beginnings of a witness of faith and prayer in that environment. How could I begin such a practice to help foster more prayer in my life?

Scraps of Faith

Back from mass and reconcilation, fumbling around through bits and bobs, I found it, that leftover jar, and suddenly, I knew exactly what God had in mind that winter day when I bought one jar too many. I place the jar on my altar, lid off, and begin taking scraps of recycled paper (otherwise to be thrown out) and cut them to a uniform length, the width of a number 2 pencil, and the length of a crayon. Small, slender strips, but long enough for a line, a thought of handwriting.

The pile and a pen join the jar as companions, ready to be of use when the occasion calls. As a prayer intention strikes me, I grab a slip of paper, jot down the date and the intention, and into the jar it goes. Every day, during my intercessory prayer, I will dump out the jar’s contents and at random, select the prayers (one at a time) and begin pouring out my heart to God, believing that He is a hearer of prayers.

Prayers, Like Petals

At first, these scraps of paper stood like soldiers, straight and tall, all in a clustered group, and the jar looked quite empty. As the effects of gravity and time have taken their course, now these slips begin to curve as they fall through the neck of the jar and float atop the others, forming a circular pattern.

It occurs to me that each prayer is like the petal of a chrysanthemum bloom, and indeed, even as my little prayers are piling up in that little jar, they curl upwards, rotating in a circular form, like the foundation of a petal base. While pondering this little metaphor, I attempt to remember any verses about prayers being a perfume. The closest thing I can come up with is:

“Let my prayers be incense before you; my uplifted hands an evening offering.” (Ps. 141:2, NAB)

I love this sort of imagery, of comparing prayer to flowers, or incense. The flowers analogy specifically (I think) probably is developed from my reading of St. Faustina’s biography, who spoke of weaving a spiritual bouquet of flowers for Our Lady out of her prayers, faithfully spoken. St. Faustina used a few different metaphors — violets, roses, and lilies, all sweet-smelling fragrances. If the analogy holds, what beautiful imagery, to think of our prayers rising up to heaven like flowers.

My little jar now seems to have a reinvigorated purpose, on its surface, just scraps of recycled paper and pen etchings, and, on a spiritual note, the beginnings of incense rising to God. This inspires me to return often to my little homemade altar, and when absent from home, to the altar that is my heart, where Christ dwells, and to offer Him prayers there in my heart of hearts; a “sweet-smelling fragrance” c.f. 2 Corinthians 2:15 by my life, in imitation of Christ, who was foremost a sacrifice to the Lord, c.f. Ephesians 5:2. May we always seek to pursue Him more nearly.

Can you use a prayer jar of your own? If you use another method, how do you integrate prayer into your daily life?. Have a blessed day, and remember to keep reaching higher to lay hold of all that God has called you to.


1 Comment

  1. Lauren, What a GREAT idea! 💛 This is way more practical ( in my opinion ) than a prayer journal ( which I have never been successful with ).
    I look forward to giving this a try❣️

    Liked by 1 person

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