Among other things she talked about the importance of three things as prerequisites for prayer:
Do not suppose, my friends and sisters, that I am going to charge you to do a great many things; may it please the Lord that we do the things which our holy Fathers ordained and practised and by doing which they merited that name. It would be wrong of us to look for any other way or to learn from anyone else. There are only three things which I will explain at some length and which are taken from our Constitution itself. It is essential that we should understand how very important they are to us in helping us to preserve that peace, both inward and outward, which the Lord so earnestly recommended to us. One of these is love for each other; the second, detachment from all created things; the third, true humility, which, although I put it last, is the most important of the three and embraces all the rest.Anyway, reading her book, it struck me as never before that one's faith has to work its way into every reach of your life. I guess I can be dense sometimes! All these things are to do with our self-knowledge and how we relate to things around us. She reiterated again and again that true prayer will bear fruit in these things; that this is a test of whether devotion is the genuine metal or not.
It goes the other way too -- the underpinning of the interior life is attempts made to grow in love, detachment and humility in the exterior world. It's like two wings, or perhaps the criss-crossing cord in a Celtic knot.
Now, my main motive for putting all my household management, personal health etc in order is to have freedom. That sounds contradictory, of course. But my vision, so to speak, was that everything that was conducive to regulation would be regulated so that my higher processes would have more freedom and I wouldn't be dragged down by subconscious guilt by letting things avoidably slip. I thought I wouldn't always be either zoning out or bustling about, either way distracted from the Unum Necessarium, if I could figure out workable, simple strategies for the different areas of my life.
I was already praying, of course, but haphazardly. So as with the other areas of my life I figured out a minimum of "tasks":
Weekly Mass and anytime I can get to daily mass (it's 60 miles away and the latest one is 8 am so this happens usually if I can arrange town appointments in the morning)
Monthly Confession (also down in town)
Daily spiritual reading -- usually Scripture and some other work.
Then I also try to follow the "seven times do I praise Thee" -- I can't claim to do the Liturgy of Hours but I generally follow the time conventions -- Vespers, Compline, Midnight, Matins, Prime, Terce, Sexte, and None. Basically for me that's before dinner, bedtime, anytime I wake up at night, dawn, mid-morning, noon and mid-afternoon. I use Magnificat and follow this order:
- before dinner -- examen (reflecting on day)
- bedtime -- prayer with littlies
- at night -- usually when I wake up at night I figure I've been volunteered to intercede for someone who needs it -- many, many people did that for Aidan when he was at his worst.
- dawn -- a Morning Offering
- after I get downstairs -- Bible reading or rosary
- mid-morning -- invocation of the Holy Spirit, and the Morning Readings in the Magnificat
- noon -- Mass readings
- mid-afternoon -- Divine Mercy Chaplet
I don't have a permanent home for the Rosary -- I usually say it at one of these times. And we say a family decade in the evening, oh, and we start our Morning Time with prayers, of course.
That sounds like a lot, and I'm sorry about that. They're all quite short. Basically the thing is to put myself in the presence of God about every three hours. It's not too hard to remember because about every three hours I get hungry and depleted if I've been busy so I have a natural "call" to go get a snack, and about the same time to retreat for a few minutes to my room to pray.
The point isn't doing X and Y and Z, it's retreating to the tabernacle in your heart. God is the one who is making Himself known, in prayer -- but He has to get past all the material distractions, and as St Teresa points out, He doesn't use force -- He waits. So a lot of the groundwork of prayer is trying to clear all that other stuff out of the way first.
By the way, it was so consoling to read that St Teresa suffered greatly from mental distractions! I felt horrible about the way I'd go to pray and a bunch of little voices in my head would start talking. Some of them tell me things I have to remember to do, some of them say really silly things about me and my prayer, and some try to start me on mental rabbit trails. She says she just ignores them as if they were a bunch of children at a park in the distance -- and just focuses on Him and on her soul trying to stay with Him. At the same time, I suppose that getting some of the things settled and peaceful in your mind is a way of avoiding an overwhelming number of these distractions, so for that reason it seems worthwhile to me to make the efforts to get this all in order.