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Catholic speakers are great. They do so much good for the Church and the lives of the faithful. But sometimes, creating a prayer schedule for yourself with their words in mind can be very difficult.

Sometimes, Catholic speakers emphasize one prayer practice and make it seem like we must all practice that type of prayer to be holy. And, when listening to multiple speakers, this can be not very clear because there are so many different practices then that we must do to be holy. And it can lead to guilt if a particular recommended prayer practice doesn’t suit your temperament or lifestyle. 

This conflicting advice can then become a source of overwhelm and confusion as we are creating a prayer schedule. 

If you feel overwhelmed and confused, you are not alone. I have been in that place many times. I have been to many Catholic conferences, and every time, I have heard speakers say things like, “You should go to daily Mass,” or “You need to do a daily Holy Hour,” or “You must pray a rosary every day.” 

I would also read about the lives of different saints and their prayer routines, and I would want to emulate their habits precisely to be holy like them.

But, there was not enough time in the day to do all of those practices and my vocational responsibilities. So, I would get frustrated with myself and feel like a bad Catholic because I was not following all of these different practices. 

If you are in that place, I have some news for you: God wants you to pray regularly. And He wants you to attend Sunday Mass every Sunday and Confession at least once a year during Lent. That is all you are required to do. The specifics of that regular prayer practice are different for every person. We are all uniquely created by God, so we are all called to connect with Him in unique ways.

creating a prayer schedule

Creating a Prayer Schedule: Like Buying New Shoes

In his book 13 Powerful Ways to Pray, Fr. Eamon Tobin shares an excellent analogy for the unique ways we are all called to connect with God, which is helpful when creating a prayer schedule. He compares discerning our unique prayer routine to trying on shoes.

When we try on shoes:

1) We usually don’t try to wear someone else’s shoes.

2) We usually have to try multiple pairs before picking out which kind we want to buy.

3) We wear different kinds of shoes for each occasion, depending on what works best. 

4) Sometimes, we end up liking a pair of shoes later on that at first we did not like. 

Prayer is similar to this:

1) We shouldn’t “try on” someone else’s prayer life and expect it to perfectly work for us and our temperament. We need to realize that everyone is different and that we need our unique routine.

2) We usually need to experiment with different forms of prayer before we can discern exactly how God is calling us to pray.

3) Having different ways to pray in our back pocket is a good plan because we then have different forms to draw on on different occasions when one works better for the situation.

4) Finally, we may not like a particular form of prayer at first, but as we grow and change, it may end up growing on us. 

The Prayer Square: A Helpful Tool When Creating a Prayer Schedule

In this article, we will talk about the different ways God might call us to pray throughout our lives and the process of discerning our particular prayer routine or shoe collection. The tool we will use is called The Prayer Square, and you can find your copy using the form below. 

I challenge you to use this tool and this article to discern your particular prayer routine, as I have personally found it helpful in my continual discernment of a prayer schedule. 

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Occupational and Spousal Prayer: Two Important Forms of Prayer

The book 13 Powerful Ways to Pray has been super helpful for me when creating a prayer schedule. In this book, Fr. Tobin explains two types of prayer necessary for a fruitful prayer life.

The first type is occupational prayer.

Occupational prayer is the prayer that occurs as we go about our day-to-day lives. For example, a person may participate in occupational prayer if they offer up a specific task for an intention.

Spousal prayer is the prayer that occurs when we intentionally set aside time for it so that we can be alone with God. An example of spousal prayer is completing a Holy Hour.

Fr. Tobin writes that both of these types of prayer are necessary, and they both positively influence each other. Spousal prayer makes occupational prayer richer-we have energy for that prayer because we have been alone with God. Occupational prayer is acting out our spousal prayer-it is truly rich only if we have also had time with God.

An excellent example of this is human friendship. If we only had alone moments, we would only be with our friends at that moment. However, we must have our alone moments with them, making it richer when we see them for brief moments throughout our day. If we only had those fleeting moments, the friendship could never go deeper. 

creating a prayer schedule

Two Other Important Forms of Prayer: Rote and Spontaneous

I have also found that both rote and spontaneous prayer is necessary for a fruitful prayer life. 

Scripted prayer is beneficial when we cannot come up with words to say what is on our mind-we can choose a prayer that expresses those same thoughts and feelings. An excellent example of this is the Hail Mary.

Unscripted prayer: An example of this type of prayer is when we talk to God as we would a friend telling Him about our day and having a conversation.

Both of these types of prayer also have a positive influence on each other. Without telling God everything, unscripted, those moments of scripted prayer become monotonous and robotic. Having scripted prayer is helpful, though, when we have no words, and it allows us to continue praying even in those moments.

What Would Happen If We Combined All These Necessary Forms of Prayer?

We now have four necessary types of prayer and two pairs of prayer types that feed off each other. We create the prayer square when we combine these prayer types like a Punnett square.

Spousal PrayerOccuptational Prayer
Rote PrayerSpousal and RoteOccupational and Rote
Spontaneous PrayerSpousal and SpontaneousOccuptational and Spontaneous

These combinations give us four types of prayer that are necessary:

  • Scripted, spousal prayer: This is the prayer that is scripted but happens in our one-on-one time with God.

Examples: 

Praying a rosary as part of our sit-down prayer
routine

Praying the Liturgy of the Hours

Praying the responses of the Mass

  • Scripted, occupational prayer: This is the scripted prayer that happens throughout our day.

Examples:

Praying the rosary in those in-between moments

Praying a Hail Mary for a passing ambulance or in

other situations that need urgent prayer.

  • Unscripted, spousal prayer: This is the unscripted prayer that happens in our one-on-one time with God.

Examples:

Telling God what is on your mind while in your
sit-down prayer routine.

Taking the time to listen to God. 

Praying during the quiet moments of the Mass

  • Unscripted, occupational prayer: This is the unscripted prayer that happens as we go about our daily living.

Examples:

Praying for an intention on the spot

Praying for grace in a particular moment

Letting God know about your feelings throughout the day. 

As we create a prayer schedule, it is essential to include at least one of each type of prayer in our routine. Including all types of prayer helps us truly pray always and get the benefits of all kinds of prayer, allowing them to feed off each other. 

It is also essential to make sure that we still have plenty of time for listening with every type of prayer. We can’t be doing all of the talking! 

creating a prayer schedule

Adding on Another Layer: Seasonal Emphasis

As has been mentioned, our prayer discernment always needs to occur, especially as we change our season in life. 

A helpful way to think about our needs in prayer each season is to think of every season in life as having one emphasis in the prayer square. For example, a mother of a new baby is probably exhausted and on an irregular schedule. While she should still make time for each of the other three aspects of the prayer square, she will probably be doing a lot more rote, occupational prayer as she goes about her duties of caring for the baby. On the other hand, a retired woman might spend lots of time in spontaneous, spousal prayer because her state-in-life allows for that extra time. 

Here are some other examples from the lives of the saints:

  • Mother Teresa spent much of her life feeling spiritual dryness or a dark night of the soul. She spent much time in scripted prayer because her dryness made long spousal and unscripted prayer difficult. 
  • St. Zelie Martin, the mother of St. Therese, spent more time in spousal prayer before and after raising her children and more time in occupational prayer while in those childrearing years.
  • St. Jane Frances de Chantal spent much time in occupational prayer when the religious order she had founded was more active. When politics forced her to make the order more contemplative, she spent more time in spousal prayer. 

The emphasis in prayer will be different with every season, but it is still important that each type of prayer in the prayer square is reflected in your routine, even if it is only for a brief amount of time. As we have been emphasizing, every person is different, so everyone will have their unique way of practicing the types of prayer represented in the prayer square.

Creating a Prayer Schedule With the Prayer Grid

1) Using the prayer grid worksheet, categorize all types of prayer currently a part of your prayer routine. Then, take a look to see if you have all kinds of prayer represented or if some areas are lacking.

2) Discern the challenges and freedoms of your current season. What does your time look like once you have fulfilled your vocational responsibilities? Is it easy or challenging to get time away? Answering these questions can help you discern what your emphasis should be. 

  • Typically: 
    • Scripted prayer can be helpful if you are experiencing dryness or are relatively new to regular prayer.
    • Spousal prayer is a helpful emphasis if you have lots of free time.
    • Occupational prayer is helpful if you have lots of time constraints.

3) With that in mind, discern if you need to add on or even remove habits. For example, if you are trying to do too much in your current season, see if you can find something you can remove. If one area is lacking, see if you can try out a type of that prayer. 

  • When deciding on new habits, I recommend focusing only on one at a time until that new habit becomes second nature. Then, you can add on a new one.

I recommend going through this process at least once a year, and possibly even monthly, if you do not have a solid prayer routine at the moment. 

Conclusion

As a reminder, if you would like a prayer grid worksheet, use the form below.

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If you would like to learn more about different types of prayer, I highly recommend 13 Powerful Ways to Pray by Fr. Eamon Tobin. He not only explains the keys to an effective prayer life, but he also writes about many different forms of prayer, which may be helpful if you realize you need to add on some prayer habits. 

To learn more about spiritual health, check out this article.

Finally, if you found this article helpful, could you please share it with at least one friend? Then, you can have an accountability partner as you begin the journey with the prayer square! 

creating a prayer schedule