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Everyone Struggles with Prayer…How ‘bout You?

Most people struggle with prayer. I did for a long time and having come a long way, I still do, wanting to get better, wanting to connect in a more meaningful way to God.

There are numerous ways to pray and an endless number of books on how to do it. Acronyms are employed as reminders, i.e. ACTS…Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. There’s rote prayer, praying through Scripture, i.e. Lectio Divina, meditation, contemplative, etc.

In reading my book or blogs, you know that the only way to lead a life of peace, joy, and fulfillment is to say “yes” to Jesus Christ and living the will of God. To know God’s will means that we need to be in relationship with Him. That relationship exists in the Sacraments and in prayer.

Keeping it simple, I advocate three types of prayer. Now please don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t have to be doing all three in one sitting or even every day. Like with anything new (if it is new to you), you can start slowly and build from there. I do all three mostly every day, which I’ll explain below. With the way I do them, none are a heavy lift. The three include:

  1. Reading Scripture
  2. Rote Prayer
  3. Daily Dialogue with God

Reading Scripture
There’s an expression that I like to quote in my talks, “it’s one thing to know the Bible, it’s another to know its Author”. The only way to get to know God the Father, Jesus Christ our Savior, and the Holy Spirit who dwells within each of us, is to read Scripture.

I go to Mass daily, so I’m hearing the readings, which come from Scripture during the Mass. In getting to Mass early, I read the Scripture readings ahead of time, meditating on one prior to Mass. When meditating, I think of two things:

  1. What would I do if I were part of the circumstances at the time?
  2. How is it relevant in my life today?

If you aren’t a daily Mass goer, you can still access the daily reading for your review. I have them emailed to me daily from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). They are available on apps like Laudate, Truth and Life.

Another idea is to get a Bible (physical or app) and just start reading it. I’d recommend starting with the New Testament, specifically the four Gospels. Just read as much as you’d like in a sitting. It can be a couple verses or an entire chapter. For what you read, pray through questions #1 and 2 from above.

Rote Prayer
I say the same rote prayers every day. They include:

  • Our Father
  • Hail Mary
  • Glory Be
  • Serenity Prayer
  • Prayer I wrote that speaks to my journey and spirituality. You can find it at (past blog).

The difference between when I learned each of these and now is that today I say each one very slowly, hanging on and praying through each word. I always start with the Our Father and often have to say it 2 or 3 times in order to slow my mind down enough to pray through every word. You’d be amazed how your prayer life changes when you pray these prayers like that.

Little hint…I say these rote prayers during my morning commute, instead of listening to the radio (which is always set for Christian music btw).

Image by Aaron Burden from Unsplash

Daily Dialogue with God
I’d not suggest doing this while driving down the road. Instead do it in a place where you can concentrate on what you’re doing and where you’re in a position to write things down. Although I’d recommend 10 minutes a day, start with 5 if you’d like. You can build up to 10 and go beyond that if you feel called to.

Going to Mass daily, I typically make sure I show up early so that I can get my 10 minutes in before Mass. Although I do it at home occasionally, my absolute best prayer time is in Church, in front of Jesus in the Eucharist…bar none. So that’s where I typically do it. The process is as follows:

  • Identify to God whatever is on your heart that day. It could be a dream, desire, or aspiration. It could be a fault or failing, a current challenge, or another person who is struggling. It’s your choice. God is interested in whatever you bring Him
  • Typically in silence, detail the situation to God. Unpack the issue for Him. What is the challenge or opportunity? What are your ideas to address or resolve it? What do you see as the pros and cons to your ideas?
  • Then just sit in silence, listening for the voice of God to speak to your heart. Be patient. Wait on Him. See what comes to you.
  • Journal as much of the above as you would like, especially how you believe God is speaking to you.

The above works; it really works. Every time I do it, it works. If there’s one part of my prayer life that drops off occasionally, this is it. I typically do it at least 4-5 days a week. Interestingly, it’s what I have to work the hardest to do and it’s the most gratifying when I do it. It always works.

As always, please contact me at [email protected] with questions, comments, or challenges.

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!!

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

How to Achieve Peace

Do you experience peace on a regular basis? Or instead are you overwhelmed by what’s going on in your life? Does the busyness nullify your opportunity for any downtime, let alone peace of mind? Does the pace crowd out the peace? If you’re answer is “yes” to any or all of the above, be assured that you’re not alone.

For the longest time, I had no peace in my life. I was totally overwhelmed by life, trying to build a business, raise a family, coach our kids in their sports, stay in shape, do chores around the house, have a social life, etc. I prided myself in how much I got done, or thought I got done. What I wasn’t achieving was peace in my life. Likewise, I wasn’t experiencing joy, nor was I fulfilled in what I was doing.

Overtime, I’ve come to believe that there’s a distinct path to peace, which includes surrender, gratitude, humility, and love.

Photo by Ricardo Esquivel from Pexels

Surrender
Acknowledging that I don’t truly have control over anything in my life, coupled with God loving me unconditionally, making me uniquely with special gifts, and wanting me to be fulfilled, I now surrender all to Him.

Doing so means trying to abide by God’s will (He knows best for me) and doing my best, while leaving the results to Him. Knowing His love for me negates my need for validation from others. He and I are in this together and He has my back.

Gratitude
Be thankful. More than that, believe that everything happens for a reason, that there are no coincidences in life. It’s true. Everything is part of God’s grand plan. So live in a place of gratitude; be grateful for everything that happens, even the crises in your life.

Gratitude isn’t just good for the soul, it’s good for the body too. Experts are constantly talking about the benefits to living a life of gratitude, including being happier, healthier, more optimistic, more spiritual, a better friend, a better boss, and many other good outcomes. A true attitude of gratitude is one that allows us to see the hand of God in all things and trust that everything will turn out for the best.

Humility
To me, humility is the opposite of ego, which is our false self, the identity that we create that is often very far from the truth of who we are. The truly humble person lives from the truth of who he is, strengths and weaknesses.

A humble person is genuinely happy for others in their successes. He is accepting of others’ ideas and thoughts (accepting doesn’t mean always agreeing), always very willing to engage in dialogue. The humble person doesn’t always have to be right, be in control, or even win. Humility allows us to accept others for who they are, rather than judging them or trying to change them.

Being humble is understanding that it is only in God working through us that we can perform or achieve anything worthwhile. It is His doing, not ours.

Photo by Orlando Allo

Love
Above all else, we are called to love. Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, second only to loving God with our whole heart, mind, strength, and soul. We need to love. When we fail to love, we leave those around us empty, and we are empty too.

Without relationships, life is meaningless. True relationship is impossible without love. To love, we need to be vulnerable; we need to trust; we need to care. Like Jesus, we need to love all.

Please share your comments, challenges, or concerns with me at [email protected]

May God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

Thank God for Thanksgiving

Thank God for Thanksgiving!!!

I posted a similar blog 3 years ago…liking what I reviewed, I wanted to share again. It’s a good reminder.  

As a country, we have so much to be grateful for, to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving 2022. We get to live in the United States of America, the greatest social and economic experiment in world history. There’s no place in the world that compares to our country. While others have great architecture and landscape, no one has our freedoms, those things held so dear by our Founders, that include the freedom of:

  • Religion
  • Speech
  • The Press
  • Assembly
  • Petition the government

While race and gender inequality existed at the country’s founding, significant measures have been taken over the last 60+ years to dramatically improve the situation. Even with these historical challenges, we’re in a far better place than the rest of the world. Americans are a good people, a compassionate and generous people…statistically speaking, the most generous people in the world.  

The economic opportunities in the United States are second to none. The story of our country is immigrants coming here and having financial success, finding a better life for themselves and their families. The same opportunities and experiences exist for American citizens. And as time progresses and innovation persists in this great country, more opportunities exist. 

The United States of America is the leader of the world. That’s not by accident or just because we have the mite to make an impact…militarily and economically. It’s because we’re the role model for the world. We’re the best of the best and others want to emulate us.

I write the above, knowing that we still have challenges in this country. The one closest to my heart, in addition to the pro-life movement, is solving for poverty. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to remove politics from the conversation, understanding what has and hasn’t worked over the last 60+ years, to lift families out of poverty.  

In closing, I’d like to offer the following prayer for our country: 

Dear Lord, thank you for all of our many blessings

Here in the United States of America; 

Help us to remember the freedoms you have provided us

And the opportunities you have given us.

Help us dear Lord, come together as a nation, eliminating the division. 

Lord, let us feel Your unconditional love, not caring what others think, 

But being all that you call us to be. Help us to see Christ in all and be Christ to all, 

Living Your Will, helping others be the best version of themselves. 

Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, we thank you for our great country; 

We ask for your continued blessings on its citizens and all that travel here. 

Amen!!! 

As always, please contact me at [email protected] with questions, comments, concerns, challenges or prayer requests. 

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

Courage is Easy to See….If You Pay Attention

If you’re like me, when you think of courage, the images that come to mind include soldiers going into battle, a police officer rescuing a hostage, firemen pulling people from a burning building, or someone saving a victim from an attacker. These examples and similar ones are what get all of the press coverage. In those stories, whether identifying with the victim or the “hero”, we get a glimpse of “courage”.

Examples of Courage in Everyday Life

The truth is that we have examples of courage all around us, that are far less dramatic than the above. The story I want to share here is very close to home, relating to my wife’s father, who not only showed great courage, but dignity.

When I met Rodney, my father-in-law, then in his 70s, he was still cutting hair in his barber shop of 50+ years, managed his rental properties, golfed and bowled regularly, hunted, raised cows, took care of his 15-acre country property, and spent tons of time with his best friend (my mother-in-law), his daughter (my wife), and the broader family. Rodney was a friend’s friend. Everyone knew him and everyone loved him. 

Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Having experienced tragedy previously in his life, including being thrown from a speeding car as a teenager, breaking his back, and being the lone survivor, Rodney was diagnosed with ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. For those not familiar, ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Early symptoms of ALS include:

  • Tripping and falling
  • Weakness in the hands, legs, feet, or ankles
  • Slurred speech or trouble swallowing
  • Muscle cramps and twitching 

As the disease advances and nerve cells are destroyed, the muscles progressively weaken. This eventually affects overall mobility, chewing, swallowing, speaking, and breathing. With no cure, life expectancy is typically no more than 5 years after diagnosis.

Never Complaining

So as to prolong his retirement, he used rubber bands to help him hold the clippers in his hand while cutting hair. He eventually had to stop working, which was preceded by no longer hunting, golfing, or bowling. He went from a cane to a walker, followed by a scooter and then a powered wheelchair. Over time, he couldn’t do anything for himself. He went from living a healthy, active, vibrant life to realizing that he was dying a slow death.  

From the very beginning of this chapter in his life, Rodney never complained. Never. Not only did he never complain, but he took on every new endeavor (and there were many) without hesitation. From giving up work and all his hobbies, to no longer driving, to being in a wheelchair, and ultimately having his every need taken care of, he did it all with what I view as absolute courage.

No Fear

According to Dictionary.com, courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, or pain without fear. I saw in Rodney a courage that was quiet and calm. He encountered great difficulty, but never feared it. Although ALS patients don’t experience physical pain, the emotional stress is a big issue, but not ever as expressed by Rodney.

He never feared the next thing. He never feared death. In fact, he embraced the journey, showing all of us what a life of courage looks like.

Path to Peace

My father-in-law, ever so courageous and dignified (in a world that so needs it), lived at a place of surrender to God’s will, ever so grateful for the life he lived. He was an incredibly humble man, one who loved all who he encountered. I define these four things as the path to peace. While suffering from the disease that ultimately took his life, he did a wonderful job of exemplifying each. 

Who are the courageous people in your life, not the ones who perform external heroic acts (which shouldn’t be minimized), but live lives with courage, dignity, and faith? I bet you have them. I assure you that you can learn from them.

Please send me your comments at [email protected].

May God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!! 

Mark Joseph