On The Journey, Judy Bowman
There’s a rhythm to life. God created the universe in such a way that day follows night, summer follows spring and the sting of death is softened a bit by a newborn baby’s cry. Every morning that dawns for us is an undeserved gift from God.
None of us is promised tomorrow. So when we awake to a new day, our first thoughts should be gratitude to the Lord. In the Catholic prayer tradition we call this the “morning offering,” In thanksgiving for His many gifts to us, we offer Him back the gift of this new day. We’re called on to make our lives “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1). When we begin each day by giving our lives again to Christ, His grace renews us for our work and the challenges we each will face.
Morning prayers to God have their roots in the Jewish tradition and Christians have followed this practice for centuries. But the most familiar morning offering is one composed a French Jesuit priest named Fr. Francois Xavier Gautrelet in 1844. He was interested in teaching young priests the importance of offering all the moments of their day for God’s greater glory. This is a cornerstone of Jesuit spirituality and is beautifully expressed in Fr. Francois’ prayer:
“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, the salvation of souls, the reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.” This simple prayer offers God everything we are and all that we do and reminds us of the need to pray for others and the entire family of God. Start your day in His presence with this lovely offering.
Then, at the end of the day, we all need to examine how we used our time. Was it for God and neighbor? Did we give God glory? Did we sin? How and why? Another Jesuit prayer practice is the “daily examen.” We begin by becoming aware of the presence of the Lord. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us review the events of the day just ended. We remember the day with gratitude to God and we pay attention to what God is trying to tell us through the details and emotions of every hour. We ask God to help us know His will and how we did or didn’t follow Him. Be patient and allow God to reveal Himself. Then look to the next day and pray for His grace to meet the challenges you’ll face. Pray for hope. A favorite prayer to end the day with is this one: “I adore You, my God, and I love You with all my heart. I thank You for having created me, for having made me a Christian, and for having preserved me this day. Pardon me for the evil I have done today. If I have done anything good, be pleased to accept it. Protect me while I take my rest and deliver me from all dangers. May Your grace be always with me. Amen.”
A rich prayer life begins and ends with our rising and our resting. These two prayers, or others of your choosing, help us to focus on what is important in life: our relationship with Christ. By beginning and ending our days with prayer, we respond to St. Paul’s instruction to “put on the full armor of God”(Ephesians 6:11). We ask for His help and forgiveness. We are grateful for His many blessings. We become aware of our sins and shortcomings and beg God’s mercy and guidance. Praying before our day begins opens our hearts and minds to Christ’s will for us. Praying before sleep invites God to help us follow Him more closely tomorrow. We get into a rhythm of prayer if we do this. We put ourselves into His loving hands as He leads us along life’s journey.
“You don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in the presence of God and as soon as you have said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!’ you can be sure you’ve already begun.” — St. Josemaria Escriva (1902-1975)