To grow deeper in a life of prayer, it can be helpful to develop a prayer routine which includes setting specific times during the day to pray, using a logical approach to having a fruitful conversation with God, praying essential types of prayer, and by including the powerful prayers which the Church grants Indulgences.
Praying the 5 Day-parts
Every habit is based on a routine in which a man does certain things in a certain sequence at certain times. To build an effective prayer life, it is helpful to set times during the day when a man will commit to pray. For a typical man, there are rhythms of daily life which span the various parts of his day which might be called “Day-parts”; as it turns out, these natural “Day-parts” are exactly the times of day which the Church encourages men to pray.
1) Early Morning Prayer
After a night of rest, the first part of a man’s day is when he wakes up and has his first thoughts of the day. To help a man draw close to God, it is helpful for a man to seek to say, “good morning” to God upon first awakening and to make the commitment to serve God as best he can in the coming day.
2) Morning Prayer
After waking up, before jumping into the work which makes up the main part of his day, it is very helpful for a man to set aside time for some deliberate prayer in which he draws closer to God in prayer to seek God’s blessing, guidance, and intercession in the day ahead. If a Catholic man’s schedule allows, he can also be blessed to pray his Morning Prayer in communion with others in the great prayer of the Sacrament of the Eucharist in the Mass.
3) Prayers During the Day
A man’s vocation during the day is typically the longest day-part of a man’s waking hours. Though this day-part is busy and sometimes stressful, a man should take time during the day to pray to God; this is easily done by praying before and after his meals and a man can also set aside specific times to pray which the Church has deemed to be sacred (e.g. 3 p.m., the Holy Hour of Christ’s Death) or by offering short prayers at mid-morning, mid-day, and mid-afternoon.
4) Evening Prayer
After a man’s work day has concluded, he makes the transition from his work day back into his time to be with his family and to rest. As his day draws towards a close, it is a blessing to review how he fared in the spiritual combat, seek the forgiveness from God, and ask for God’s blessings for another day.
5) Late Evening Prayers
Prior to falling asleep and entering into his night’s slumber, a man’s last thoughts and prayers should be turned towards God for protection and rest during the night to come.
Every Catholic man’s schedule varies, but setting specific times to pray and building the discipline to pray at those times is a critical step in establishing a robust prayer life; praying at the 5 Day-parts of Prayer provides a sure and solid foundation for building a life of prayer.
Being guided by a conversational logic of prayer
The Our Father contains the essence of Jesus’ personal approach to prayer and teaches the essentials of the Christian prayer life (CCC 2759-2865) which can guide a every Catholic man’s prayer life, both when praying the Our Father, but when a man prays in other ways.
Guided by the Our Father, a man can learn a seven step “conversational logic of prayer” to guide his prayer with God which is similar to how he would have a conversation with a great and powerful benefactor on earth:
1) Begin the conversation with God (The Sign of the Cross, “Our Father”).
2) Confirm obedience to God (“hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done”),
3) Thank God for His blessings (the entire Our Father is a thanksgiving to God).
4) Repent, apologize, and ask God for forgiveness (“Forgive us our trespasses”).
5) Learn from God and seek holiness (“Thy will be done”, “as we forgive those who trespass against us”).
6) Ask for God’s help (“Give us this day our daily bread”, “lead us not into temptation”, and “deliver us from evil/The Evil One”).
7) End the conversation with God (“For the Kingdom and the power and the glory are Yours, now and forever”, “Amen”, The Sign of the Cross).
Receive the astounding blessing of Indulged prayers in a prayer routine
The Church helps every Catholic man build upon his spontaneous personal prayers by offering a rich treasury of prayers which have been prayed by the Saints across the ages and that draw a man into the communion of Saints. Prayers which have been deemed particularly powerful and helpful in growing in holiness are granted Indulgences. Indulgences are one of the most powerful blessings in the Church, but are rarely emphasized and often misunderstood.
Jesus gave the Church the power to grant Indulgences
Jesus Himself gave to St. Peter the supernatural power to “bind and loose” (Mt 16:19, 18:18; CCC 1444-1445, 1478), giving St. Peter and his successors the power to forgive sin (Jn 20:22-23).
Through this power, the Church grants Indulgences (Latin, indulgentia, meaning “fondness, tenderness, affection, remission”; CCC 1471-1479, 1498) which are a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to a sin committed by a man for which his guilt has already been forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance; a Catholic man can also offer Indulgences to be granted to faithfully departed Catholic souls who are currently being cleansed in the agonizing fires of Purgatory (CCC 1479, 1498).
A man can reduce the just punishment for his sins by Indulgences – To understand the astounding blessing of Indulgences, a man must first understand his accountability for the sins which he commits. In simple terms, when a man commits a sin, there is damage.
If a man confesses his sin to God and is forgiven through the Sacrament of Penance, his guilt for the committed sin is forgiven. What remains is the damage his sin has caused and for which he is liable, which is called “temporal punishment” (CCC 1472-1473). An analogy might be helpful: if a man purposefully throws a rock and breaks another man’s plate glass window, the man with the broken window may forgive the rock thrower, but justice requires that the rock-thrower pay for the repair of the window.
A repentant Catholic man can reduce his “temporal punishment” for the sins he has been forgiven of by having great sorrow and perfect contrition for his sins, striving to grow in holiness, accepting the sufferings in his life in penance for the glory of God, performing many acts of charity, evangelizing others, and taking on voluntary suffering through fasting and other mortifications in sorrow for his sins. Any “temporal punishment” a man has accumulated through the sins of his life that remains at the time of his death in a state of grace, will be cleansed in the fires of Purgatory in the Church Penitent (CCC 1030-1032, 1472).
Here is tremendous news: every Catholic man can reduce, or even eliminate, his coming just “temporal punishment” by receiving Indulgences!
The Church offers a man who wishes for help in reducing the “temporal punishment” he is due for the damage his sin has caused (or for other poor souls who are in Purgatory) the astounding blessing of Indulgences; by simply making holy prayers and taking other actions as the Church directs, a man can be granted remission for the just punishment he is due for his sins, or the sins of another who is suffering in Purgatory.
Conditions for receiving Indulgences
Because of the great power and blessings of Indulgences and so the pursuit and granting of Indulgences are not misunderstood or abused, the Church has specific norms which guide the conditions which a man must meet to be able to receive an Indulgence (See The Manual of Indulgences for reference p ___ and consult with a priest); in the following discussion, Norms from The Manual of Indulgences are referenced using (MOP N#).
Basic requirements to receive an Indulgence
To receive any Indulgence (MOI N17):
1) a man must be baptized,
2) not excommunicated,
3) in a state of grace at least at the completion of the Indulged prayer or act,
4) have the general intention of receiving the Indulgence, and
5) must carry out the act as prescribed in The Manual of Indulgences.
It is important to emphasize that a man must be in a state of grace to receive any Indulgence; if a man is in a state of mortal sin his effort to receive any Indulgence is futile. Every Catholic man who seeks to gain any Indulgence should receive the Sacrament of Penance often.
A man can receive Indulgences for himself or a soul in Purgatory
A man can obtain Indulgences for themselves or can choose to apply an indulgence he has been granted for an indulged holy act to the poor souls in Purgatory (MOI N3).
There are two types of Indulgences
Indulgences are either “Partial” or “Plenary” (MOI N2). A Partial indulgence is the most common kind and removes part of the temporal punishment due to sin. A Plenary (Latin, plenarius, meaning “entire, complete”) indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment due to sin.
Because Plenary Indulgences remove all temporal punishment due to sin, a man who receives a Plenary Indulgence at any time of his life, is granted a pardon from any time in Purgatory which he justly deserved up to that point in his life. There are stringent requirements for receiving a Plenary Indulgence (MOI N20) which a man must understand and adhere to, the most challenging is that a man must be completely free from the attachment to even the smallest of venial sins; what this means on a practical basis, is that Plenary Indulgences are difficult for the average man to acquire. If a man has a desire to seek Plenary Indulgences, he should consult his priest.
The Devotional highlights prayers which can receive Partial Indulgences
In the prayer routine that follows, the Devotional focuses upon helping men receive Partial Indulgences which can be acquired multiple times a day (MOP 18.1). This is a great and powerful blessing for a man can be confident that his attempts to pray more consistently is guaranteed by the Church to have a powerful supernatural impact on his own life after death by reducing his own time of purification in Purgatory, or by reducing the time another soul’s time of purification in Purgatory; the more often a man who is in a state of grace prays prayers which are Indulged by the Church, the less time he or a soul in Purgatory will spend in Purgatory.
To gain a Partial Indulgence attached to a prayer, a man must simply recite the Indulged Prayer himself or follow the prayer mentally when it is recited by another (MOI N23).
Other ways to gain Partial Indulgences
In addition to reciting prayers which have Indulgences attached to them, in The Manual of Indulgences, the Church makes general grants for holy acts and offers Indulgences for acts. By doing so, the Church encourages acts which lead a man to grow in holiness and allows him through his holy and diligent efforts to reduce the temporal punishment he has accumulated for the sins he has committed or to reduce the suffering of souls in Purgatory for their accumulated temporal punishment.
“The Four General Concessions” (The Manual of Prayer, pages 21-36) should be reviewed in detail and discussed with a priest, but are summarized below:
I – “A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, while carrying out their duties and enduring the hardships of life, raise their minds in humble trust to God and make, at least mentally, some pious invocation.”
II – “A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who, led by the spirit of faith, give compassionately of themselves or of their goods to serve their brothers in need.”
III – “A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, in a spirit of penance, voluntarily abstain from something that is licit for [sic] and pleasing to them.”
IV – “A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, in the particular circumstances of daily life, voluntarily give explicit witness to their faith before peers.”
Prayers for which the Church grants Indulgences
In recent years, the Church has updated and simplified the approach to receiving Indulgences which are taught in The Manual of Indulgences. The Manual of Indulgences confirms a list of powerful prayers which can enrich a Catholic man’s prayer life, help him grow in his understanding and love of the Catholic faith, unite him in prayer with the Communion of Saints, and grant the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for himself and for the souls in Purgatory.
Powerful prayers from the Church’s treasury of prayer
There are also many beautiful and powerful prayers which the Church had granted Indulgences for hundreds of years in The Raccolta – A Manual of Indulgences (Selective References); these prayers have stood the test of time and can inspire a man to grow in joy and seek holiness and for which a man may receive Indulgences (see General Concession I above).
There are also many Catholic prayer handbooks and devotionals which include a rich treasury of Catholic prayers that have inspired men for centuries (Selective References). These handbooks often have designated specific sequences of prayers for various times of the day which have guided and inspired countless men in their daily prayer lives. The Devotional includes a number of these beautiful prayers which have inspired men across the centuries.