How to have a prayerful Advent.
I love the anticipation of Advent. The joy and excitement. What I don’t love is the commercialization that threatens to distract me.
The gifting and spending make me cringe. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against giving and receiving gifts. I don’t hate the idea of generosity. I just get stressed out from the pressure of mandatory giving.
So, while it’s a tempting proposition for my wallet, you won’t find me writing a gift guide. I won’t tell you what to buy for your mother, father, aunt, spouse, or children. Because 1) I have no idea what my own loved ones want, let alone yours and 2) that would bring me more stress than joy.
But instead of a gift guide, how about a prayer guide? Today, I want to share with you my favorite prayers and traditions to bring you and your family closer to Jesus this Season.
How to have a prayerful Advent
1. Add easy, constant prayer
Prayer doesn’t have to be a big to-do. It doesn’t have to be something complicated or fancy. Start by adding easy, effortless, constant prayer to your day.
- Christmas music
Turn on some Christmas themed music. Not Rudolf and Frosty, but Jesus-centered music. Many popular Christian bands have wonderful Christmas albums. Create a Pandora or Spotify station, crank it up, and sing along. Lift your voice in praise and worship!
- Light a candle
A candle for prayer isn’t just an at-church practice. You can do this at home too. Whether you want to designate a special intention for your candle, or just whisper the name of Jesus when you see it. It doesn’t matter. The candle symbolizes continuous prayer lifted up to God, and will help remind you to pray unceasingly. Let the small flame constantly remind you of Jesus, the Light of the World.
- St. Andrew Novena
I used to think this novena was more stress than it’s worth, since it makes you count up 15 prayers every day. But then I realized this Novena isn’t about being a stickler for details. It’s not about counting and mindless repetition. It’s about keeping your mind on Christ all day long. So now I stopped counting. Instead, I display a beautiful print-out of the prayer, and say it as often as I can, any time my mind (or eyes) turn to it throughout the day. It’s low pressure, and keeps Jesus on my mind all day long.
2. Add a (free) special devotion
If you want more formal, structured prayer, there are countless free resources to help you boost your prayer life.
- Liturgy of the Hours
Sometimes I pick this practice up during Advent. Usually, I just do evening prayer, but I’ve been ambitious enough to add morning and evening prayer to my routine at times in the past. I love this practice because it unites us to the Body of Christ praying around the world. And, it’s so richly seasonal! The Advent readings and prayers in the Divine Office do a great job of keeping you in anticipation of Christ’s birth. If you’ve never tried the Liturgy of the Hours before, download a free app and give it a go!
- A Beauty Full Advent
Sign up for Jill Simon’s A Beauty Full Advent. It’s a free email series focusing on the theme of how God reveals Himself to us in the beauty surrounding us. I can’t wait for this series. I’m looking forward to praying and reflecting with Jill every day. As the weather turns bleak and the trees become bare, I could use an extra hand discovering the beauty of the season.
3. Add prayer to your favorite traditions
The world doesn’t own our Christmas tree and cookie baking and stocking stuffing traditions. We can reclaim them for Jesus with a quick moment of prayer.
- Christmas tree prayer
While you’re decorating your Christmas tree, say a prayer. Bless your tree. Sprinkle some holy water. Ask Jesus to remind you of eternity by the ever-greenness. To remind you of the light of truth by the sparkling Christmas lights. Pray that Jesus may give you the grace to decorate your soul with virtue the way you’re decorating the tree with bulbs and ribbon.
- Cookie prayer
When you’re baking cookies, say a prayer for all those who eat them. That their lives may be filled with the sweetness of the newborn Baby Jesus. That your cookies will bring joy and fellowship to your family and friends.
- A gifting prayer
If you do any gift exchange, add a quick prayer before tearing into the wrapping paper. Thank Jesus for giving you the gift of Himself. Tell Him we want to give back to Him – like the wise men did, with gifts and acts of charity towards each other. Ask Him to open our hearts to receive all our gifts and blessings with a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving. Then let the unwrapping begin!
- Holy Christmas cards
When you send Christmas cards, pray for each recipient. Throw a Bible verse next to your traditional family photo. When our family sends Christmas cards, we make sure we’re sending the message of Jesus in the mail. We cut Christmas pictures out of religious magazines, glue them to a postcard sized piece of cardboard, and write a prayer offering as our message.
4. Invest in a special Advent devotion
If you have a few extra bucks to spend, start slowly investing in beautiful Advent traditions that will last for years. You don’t have to do these all at once, but try just one at a time, and slowly add to your collection.
- The Advent wreath
You know the drill. Light a new candle every week. Say a prayer. Blow them out when dinner is done. you may want to invest in a nice wreath that you’ll love to be the prominent decoration on your dining room table for the next four weeks (no thank you, leafy garland ring). The beauty of this tradition makes mealtime grace extra special.
- Baby Jesus sacrifices
In our home, we have a beautiful (breakable) Baby Jesus that doesn’t come out of storage until Christmas day. Before that, His manger stays on display for all of Advent, heaped high with coarse, scratchy hay. Every time someone in the family makes a sacrifice for Baby Jesus, they get to put a nice soft piece of yarn in the manger. By the time Jesus arrives, His bed has been made comfy by our prayers, works, and sacrifices.
- Jesse Tree
And of course, I must mention the Jesse Tree, my favorite Advent tradition ever! The Jesse Tree is a countdown to Christmas. It begins on December first, and goes through Christmas day. Each day of this devotion, we hang one ornament on a special tree, tracing Old Testament history up to the time of His birth. You can reflect on Adam and Even, Abraham, Noah, Mary and Joseph, and even the O Antiphons!
- The Pray More Advent Retreat
Do NOT miss the Pray More Advent Retreat. They usually ask for a free will offering, so I could have put this in the free section, but believe me: it’s worth whatever you can spare to contribute. The retreat is packed with amazing talks from favorite Catholic speakers. Their topics are varied, but always have an amazing message to send. I’m definitely signing up again this year!
I hope these prayer ideas help you plan for a devout and prayer-filled Advent! Remember, you don’t have to do them all. Pick one or two that will work for your family. I’ll be praying for you to grow closer to Jesus, as we wait in joyful anticipation of His coming.
Download the Advent Prayer Guide packet
Download this free Advent Prayer Guide packet to start your prayerful Advent.
If you love gift guides…
Check out these amazing gift guides from my blogging friends:
- Top Catholic Gifts for Everyone on Your List from Lindsay at Just Love Prints
- A Quick St. Nicholas Gift Guide from Kirby at Under Thy Roof
- A Tea with Tolkein Gift Guide from Kaitlyn at Tea with Tolkein
- Gift Ideas for Catholic Converts and Reverts from Desiree at The Green Catholic Burrow
- Faith Based Gifts for Military Families from Caitlyn at Mrs. Andy, Anchored by Faith
- The Ultimate Gift Guide for Women from Ginny at Not So Formulaic