Ten Practical Prayer Tips from the Carmelite Sisters

ask-a-carmelite-logo-5-w740x493Dear Sister,

Is there a best time to pray, given all the activities each day holds for me – working at my job and caring for and being with my family makes a very full day? Also, I’m not fully awake first thing in the morning and already mighty tired by the time I lay my head on the pillow. I thought I would “Ask a Carmelite Sister” for her input on how I can find some time to pray.

Dear Friend,

I commend highly your desire to find the “right time to pray.”  During a retreat, a priest shared that each person has a built-in clock.  We have expressions to confirm his statement. People say, “I’m not an early morning person” or “I do my best work at night when everyone else is asleep.”  So, your question is a good one.

The important thing is that you want to pray. You yearn to spend some time with God in prayer.  Each person has to find the “islands of prayer” in the sea of our frenzied activity so apparent in our culture. I know a person who works in downtown Los Angeles and parks his car several blocks away from where he works so that he can walk and pray both going to and from his job. I know another person who has made it a habitual practice to consciously drive by his parish church on the way home from work and spend fifteen minutes in the adoration chapel before driving home. I know a mom who locks the bathroom door and prays.  St. Teresa says, “We need no wings to go in search of God, but only to find a place where we can be alone and communicate with Him, who dwells within us.”

I asked some of my Carmelite Sisters what they do to pray during the day. We sisters, too, are busy about the Lord’s work in our portion of His vineyard. We get up at 4:55 a.m. in order to pray before our actual workday begins. But that doesn’t seem right to me.  Prayer IS our work, our priority. We actually pray nearly two hours before breakfast. Our decision to join our Carmelite community was precisely because Carmelites do just that – Carmelites pray.

The following “Prayer Tips” are from my Carmelite Sisters. Maybe one or more will help you, as it has helped them.

Ten Practical Prayer Tips from the Carmelite Sisters

  • Take a line from the liturgy of the day and repeat it during the day – a new line every day. The responsorial psalm and the Gospel Acclamation theme are good ones to use.
  • Let a spiritual thought from a hymn or a book or Mass be as background music in your mind during the day.
  • Take a holy card (or picture) of Christ and place it where you can see it so that you may think of Him.
  • Make a spiritual communion every hour. I set the stop watch I use.
  • Fix your inward gaze upon Him amidst your occupations.
  • Find a “trigger moment,” such as putting your keys on the desk; turning off the computer, or laying out clothes for the next day that can serve as a reminder to take a moment for short prayer.
  • Instead of a coffee break, take a short prayer break. In the mid-morning or mid-afternoon, get up and move into a different space and think of God.
  • I think of God every time I look at a watch or clock.
  • I sing hymns in my heart during the day.
  • Make Spiritual aspirations during the day. (See below)

What are Spiritual Aspirations? (From the spiritual works of St. Francis de Sales)

“My child, aspire continually to God, by brief, ardent upliftings of heart; praise God, invoke His aid, cast yourself in spirit at the Foot of His Cross, adore His Goodness, offer your whole soul a thousand times a day to Him, fix your inward gaze upon Him, stretch out your hands to be led by Him, as a little child to its father, clasp Him to your breast as a fragrant bouquet.

In short, enkindle by every possible action your love for God, your tender, passionate desire for the Heavenly Bridegroom of souls. Such is prayer of aspiration, as it was so earnestly inculcated by Saint Augustine; and be sure, my child, that if you seek such nearness and intimacy with God your whole soul will imbibe the perfume of His Perfections.

Neither is this a difficult practice – it may be interwoven with all our duties and occupations, without hindering any; for neither the spiritual retreat of which I have spoken, nor these inward upliftings of the heart, cause more than a very brief distraction, which, so far from being any hindrance, will rather promote whatever you are doing. The practice of these short aspirations can supply all our deficiencies, but without a true contemplative life cannot be lived, and the active life will be but imperfect.”  – St. Francis de Sales

Thank you for your question and until next time,

Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D.


Send your questions for Sister to asksister@integratedcatholiclife.org.

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About the Author

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for these tips. As a Catholic Christian, discerning a vocation to Monastic Priesthood (if The Lord wills it), I am more drawn to prayer and the contemplation of the mystery of Christ as I get older. I will remember your community at the Easter Vigil Mass this evening in St. Paul’s Church, Yate, in Gloucestershire, England. Through the intercession of St. Teresa of Avila and St. Francis de Sales may your community grow in the Divine Love, and so be as Christ to all you meet.
    With best wishes in the risen Lord,

    Phil O’Rourke

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