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How to deepen your relationship with Christ this Lenten season

Prayer can be a great consolation to us. It is often the means of God’s grace to strengthen, encourage, and guide us. It is also hard work and requires a strong commitment to persevere. This doesn’t mean that it should be a straining exercise. Still, when we choose to pray we are thereby rejecting other things that might be pleasurable to us. For instance, I know one very busy business man who, though he is a “night person” by disposition, gets up at 3:30 AM every morning to pray. He is driven by a deep passion to know and live his life for Christ. Still, he doesn’t enjoy the challenges related to getting up this early.

St. John of the cross is often criticized for his negative emphasis on denying self. However, this is a matter of perspective. The man I am speaking of does deny his own desire to sleep more, to sometimes have more energy and acuity during the day. But, as he denies himself he is also choosing something very good. Because of the graces God has provided in response, he experiences a great deal of joy and peace in the midst of challenging physical and work related circumstances. His wife would also give testimony to the significant changes that have come in his life because of his commitment to Christ and Christ's generous response.

What I am getting at here is to propose an initiation or a deepening of your daily prayer life for lent (and beyond). This will involve sacrifice, but it will also bring great graces. If you are up for the challenge our readers have already weighed in on the best resources for this in their responses to our post Tattered Titles. I would like to highlight two of those resources:

The first is Fr. John Bartunek’s The Better Part – A Christ Centered Resource for Personal Prayer. This really is an exceptional work. If you have yet to develop a substantive prayer life, this is the place to start. If you are stuck, his insights and daily meditations will help you past these challenges. This particular approach to prayer will deepen your love for and relationship with Christ and help you to make significant strides in your spiritual life. For a sample of the daily units check out the Wednesday posts on this site.

The second is, Divine Intimacy – Meditations on the Interior Life for Every Day of the Liturgical Year by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. This work provides profound insights into the life of God that can greatly deepen our understanding of our Lord and the life we live under His wings. While Fr. John’s book focuses on an encounter with Christ in the Gospels, Fr. Gabriel provides regular insights into the spiritual life based on the insights of great spiritual masters of the Carmelite tradition.

If you wanted to double up in your efforts to dig deeper in lent, use The Better Part to deepen your morning prayer, and Divine Intimacy to fulfill a new or existing commitment of daily spiritual reading and reflection. Both of these books are a bit on the costly side. However, you can also see this as a sacrifice (Fr. John's book would cost you about the same as 10 visits to Starbucks, and Fr. Gabriel's about 15).

Both of these works provide for daily insights, perspective, and conversation with Christ – which is the goal of all authentic meditation and spiritual reading. Christ has great treasures waiting for you this Lenten season. Why not give up some time and treasure, and give more to God? It will and should be a challenge but you won’t regret the decision.

PS: For those of you who are fans of these works, it would be great to hear from you about how they have helped you in your spiritual growth. Oh, one more thing – please share this post on Facebook and Twitter so you can bless your friends with this idea – particularly those of you who already know the great treasures that lie in store for those who take up the challenge!

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, the High Calling Seminary Preparation Program, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. In 2018, he launched the annual Avila Summit held at Hanceville, Alabama. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband, father of four, and grandfather of one, the President and Chief Operating Officer of EWTN News, Inc., a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer, speaker and pilgrimage director who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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