I am not sure how I would pray if I did not have the regular rhythm of the prayers and scriptures of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. I am pretty sure my prayer would soon descend into nothing, since while I do pray every day apart from the set forms, it is the prayers and scriptures that are given to me daily by the church that feed my ability to stay with God when I seek to contemplate, and even when I am driving.
a centred life
Throughout history this has been the case. Christians have always centred their lives of prayer on the liturgy of the Church, and then used other formal prayers and lectio divina to pray at different hours of the day. However I have noticed that a growing number of people have chosen to set aside all formal practices of prayer and liturgy and now find that they struggle in prayer, or that their prayer descends into introspection or positive thinking and relaxation exercises.
formal prayer and liturgy
Until recent decades, Catholics were actively encouraged to pray every day using formal forms of prayer, with a Morning Offering, Examen of Consciousness, Rosary, grace before and after meals, and night prayer. All of these daily encounters with God were regularly nourished by the Sunday celebration of the Mass (appreciated as the centre of the life of a Catholic), and regular (at least monthly) confession.
I say “until recent decades” because I am often surprised at the number of teenagers and young adults who do not pray in any kind of formal or regular way. Often they have picked up this casual relationship with God from their elders (parents and teachers), and too often those who have a preaching responsibility to support parents and teachers have remained silent, or have preached about prayer in a way that is purely theoretical and disconnected from the reality of the complex lives of faithful people.
While many people have let go of formal prayer with the intention of praying only in more spontaneous or contemplative ways, this very rarely happens. Spontaneous prayer (and certainly contemplative prayer) is a gift experienced by the one who firstly prays with the Church in the liturgy, and in formal prayer.
One practical suggestion.
One of the most successful aids to prayer in the last couple of decades is the Magnificat booklet, now also available as an app for smartphone and ipad. Over almost twenty years this little monthly publication with morning and evening prayer, readings for daily Mass and meditations has grown to see over a quarter of a million people across many languages using these formal prayers and scriptures as a focus for their own prayer and contemplation. Fr. Peter John Cameron OP (English language editor) notes that an increasing number of young adults are using Magnificat for their daily prayer.
A few years ago I started using the print edition, but now use the smartphone app for the monthly price of less than the price of a cafe coffee. You might consider giving a gift subscription…
Magnificat Website at this link
Smart phone and Ipad website at this link (although easiest to find the app on your phone)