The Devotional is designed to be a “master-habit” through which you will continue to build many of the essential Catholic habits which lead to holiness and happiness. In as little as 15 minutes a day, you can make real progress in choosing the true and lasting happiness Jesus promises by simply praying the Daily Devotions!
The word “habit” is the inclination and ability to automatically and easily respond to a situation in a routine way. To build a “master-habit” of praying the Devotional, here are 5 keys to help you more consistently pray the Daily Devotions every day:
- Increase your Desire to pray the Devotional.
- Increase Stimuli which will help you remember to pray the Devotional.
- Make it easy to pray the Devotional each day (Response).
- Increase the Consequences for praying the Devotional.
- Increase the motivation to pray with the Devotional through Repetition.
1. Increase your Desire to pray the Devotional
A key first step to building the daily holy habit to pray the Devotional is to take action to increase your personal Desire to use the Devotional every day. Here are some ideas that can help you strengthen your Desire to pray the Devotional:
- As is true in seeking the help from God in all things, begin to pray every day to ask for God’s help in building the master-habit to pray the Daily Devotions every day; also ask for the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, your patron Saints and your Guardian Angel to intercede for you.
- In a work-book or journal, spend some time writing down all the benefits you can gain from building a “master-habit” of praying the Daily Devotions. You can review the way that the Devotional has been carefully crafted for ideas that will motivate you. Pay special attention to the sins/vices you desire to overcome and noting how the Devotional can help you build virtue.
- In a workbook or journal, dedicate your efforts to grow in holiness through the Devotional to a loved one; perhaps to God, your bride or children, to your work, to others, or to building the Church.
- One key way to increase the Desire to continue to pray the Devotional is to make a time-based commitment to pray it every day for a period of time. A good place to start is to commit to pray the Devotional for 90 days, the amount of time generally considered sufficient to begin to build a long term habit.
- One of the key ways to reinforce the personal Desire to pray the Devotional every day is to make a commitment together with another man or a group of men; some men also will also find it to be a blessing to read the Devotional with their girlfriend, fiancé or spouse and even their children or grandchildren.
If you are faltering of have fallen away from praying the Devotional, simply start again by acknowledging your failure to God and asking for His help in renewing your commitment to serve Him in praying the Devotional; remember, God knows you and perfectly understands your struggles. He wants you to be happy, and is the One who is calling you back to praying the Devotional! Simply start again with joy!
2. Increase Stimuli which will help you remember to pray the Devotional
The next step in helping build the “master-habit” of praying the Devotional is to increase the positive cues (Stimulus) which can remind or spur you on to pray the Devotional and to anticipate and thwart the temptations to not pray the Devotional:
- Because Satan absolutely opposes your efforts to draw closer to God, he will put obstacles in your way to tempt and distract you from praying the Devotional. Pray for God to remind (Stimulus) you to pray the Devotional every day, to keep the Devotional “top of mind” for you. Also seek the help of all the Saints and Angels who will echo your prayers to God.
- By making a special place to pray the Devotional, you will be more likely to see the place and remember your commitment.
- If a man is willing and can take the time, there is tremendous blessings to praying the Devotional in the Real Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle or in an Adoration chapel at his parish; consider setting aside one day a week to pray the Devotional in the Presence of Christ in your parish.
- Your home, an in particular, a special place you set up to pray (personal shrine), can also become a sacramental, a place which is specially set aside for a holy purpose; consider having your home and place of prayer blessed by a priest or deacon.
- Commit to a regular scheduled time to pray with your daily Devotional and use your calendar and clock as tools to help remind you to pray the Devotional.
- The Devotional can be used to battle and be victorious over temptations; as soon as you become aware of a temptation, immediately and urgently open up your nearby Devotional and return to the Daily Devotion or one of your favorite prayers for a few short moments; see Drawing closer to God in prayer and identify some “go-to” prayers when temptation arises, for example, the Litanies of Virtue.
3. Make it easy to pray the Devotional each day (Response)
The Devotional has been designed to incorporate many resources into a single book and can yield great fruit in your life if you pray the Devotional consistently; the actual praying with the Devotional (Response) is the “moment of truth”:
- Sometimes time is tight in the morning and you may be groggy. Finding the day’s Gospel reading and Daily Devotion the night before can make it easier to pray the Devotional the next morning.
- Making a specific commitment with a time length (15 minutes a day) helps a man follow through; appointments and “hard-stop” time commitments help ensure follow through by making it easier to sustain a commitment.
- Distractions and interruptions, though they are not always avoidable, can reduce your ability to give your best to God in prayer. Put any devices (phones, computers, watches) on silent and gently ask others to allow you to pray.
- As noted above, it is helpful to set aside a place in your home that you designate as a sacred spot. To build a routine, returning, again and again, to the same physical space helps build a habit; you feel comfortable, you are less distracted, your soul, mind and body “remember” the blessings from many previous prayer sessions and automatically relax.
- There are a number of things that can help you make your time of prayer more sacred and distinct from your normal life and make it more enjoyable to your senses: light a candle (visual), burn some incense (scent), put on some Gregorian chant music (sound), put on a special robe (tactile), sit in a comfortable chair (tactile), etc. Some men find it helpful to put in earplugs or wear noise-canceling headphones to block out distractions.
- The more you make praying the Devotional personal, the greater will be your commitment and follow through; be hands-on. Make it personal by building a routine to write in the Devotional; it is your Devotional and you can write in it.
- The more time you spend with the Devotional near by, the more often you will find yourself wanting to open the Devotional and pray. Keep your Devotional close, like a holy companion who is always near you, knows your challenges, and will be there to immediately help you draw near to God, especially in times of struggle.
4. Increase the Consequences for praying the Devotional
To help you build the “master-habit” of praying the Devotional, you can design pleasant and satisfying Consequences when you pray the Daily Devotions and unpleasant Consequences when you fail to pray the Daily Devotions:
- Tracking a habit by recording your successful accomplishment of a habit is a proven positive Consequence that helps a man build a habit. Make a note in a workbook or calendar each day when you pray a Daily Devotion.
- One way to help fulfill your obligation is to use what you are learning in the Devotional to help your family, friends or others meet and know Jesus. By making the commitment to share what you are learning, you will better hold yourself accountable for keeping up with praying the Daily Devotions and find great satisfaction (Consequence) and motivation to sustain the master-habit of praying the Devotional.
- Set a goal of praying the Devotional for a number of days in a row without a break (Streak) or a total number of days (e.g. 100 days). Set a goal which stretches you but doesn’t seem so far in the future it fails to motivate; when you reach your goal, give yourself a small meaningful reward to celebrate what God is doing in your life.
- Set a negative Consequence when you miss a day of praying the Daily Devotions, for example: skip your coffee for the day, deny yourself breakfast, fast from all entertainment media for a day, kneel on a hard floor and pray for strength from God, take a cold shower, abstain from alcohol for a week, etc. Choose something which motivates you to not fail again.
5. Increase the motivation to pray with the Devotional through Repetition
You create a personal habit through Repetitions which continually reinforce the habit; here are some ideas that can help you continue to build your Daily Devotion “Reps”:
- To increase your motivation to continue to pray the Devotional (Repetition), periodically (weekly, monthly) step back and reflect upon how you are drawing closer to Christ (Consequence) and record your insights in a notebook; you can use the personal Desires you noted above to spark your meditations.
- Notice that you are forming your conscience and growing in awareness and hatred of sin; marvel at your increasing mastery over temptation; consider how Christ is giving you clear evidence of His presence in your life; be surprised at how you are getting along better with others; be grateful for how you are spontaneously acting in holy ways; smile and feel joy at signs of your growing happiness.
- A Streak is a record of continually repeating a habit which has a proven ability to motivate a man to continue in a habit. Record your daily habit of praying the Daily Devotions and watch your Streak grow.
- As with all habits, it is difficult to sustain a Streak and to never miss a day. Missing a day can happen for any number of reasons, some of which are not in your control. To build a habit, it is not necessary to Repeat the habit every day without a miss; what is critical is to “get your reps in”. Rather than getting down on your self for missing a day in your Repetitions, make the vow to never miss two days in a row.