Creating a Toolbox for Prayer

Posted by Spalding Hurst

September 4, 2021

Creating a Toolbox for Prayer

By Michelle Grgurich, SCN

Part of the Toolbox for Prayer series

Download in PDF format

Prayer is communication with the divine (Creator, Redeemer, Spirit), a relationship, like our human relationships, that needs to be nurtured regularly.

Just as in a human relationship we find different ways to build our relationships, so it is with the divine.

As humans, we engage in a variety of activities to develop relationships. We might go to a sporting event or see a movie with a group of friends, go to the local Starbucks for coffee or meet for lunch or dinner, go to a concert, read or listen to a book together or meet at a state park to hike the trails.

Our creativity in human relationships seems endless. We find numerous ways to engage with our friends and family members. Sharing various experiences together creates precious memories and deepens our relationship with each successive encounter.

Various experiences of prayer strengthen our connection with the divine. There are just as many ways to develop our prayer as there are ways to build our human relationships.

We can encounter the divine in a communal way when we attend Mass, pray the Liturgy of the Hours with others or go to a special prayer service. There is great power in joining with others to express and witness to our shared faith.

Our relationship with the divine does not end there. Just like we are in touch with our friends and family on a regular basis and not only at gatherings, so we engage in private prayer experiences to deepen our spiritual life.

When we pray privately we create space for the presence of the divine to accompany us and the voice of the divine to guide us.

Many people express difficulty in entering into prayer, often because the concept of praying conjures images of sitting alone in a room being “forced” to be quiet and to push all thoughts out of the mind. This image really limits what we can consider prayer and can leave us bored, frustrated and turned off by the thought of prayer.

Now imagine prayer as a time to free your spirit, to open yourself up to an encounter with the divine in a profound way, even for a singular moment of

What would open you to this experience, this encounter with the divine?

What is in your toolbox for prayer?

You can begin to create it by listing the types of prayer you already know that work for you and then . . . add something new!

“When we pray privately we create space for the presence of the divine to
accompany us and the voice of the divine to guide us.”

Here are some suggestions for your consideration for private prayer, see where the divine Spirit leads you. Be creative, free your spirit, open yourself to an encounter with the divine as you prayerfully engage in these activities.

Listen to reflective music – try something instrumental (no words). How does the music inspire you? Can you hear the whisper of the Spirit as you listen?

Written Journal – Write your prayer, express your sorrow, struggles, joys, hopes for reconciliation, desire to forgive. Take time to reflect on your writing.

Visual Journal – look through a magazine and cut out the pictures that attract you (pictures only, cut around all words or phrases). Paste images in a creative manner, overlapping as needed on an 8.5 by 5.5 piece of cardboard or card stock. Reflect on the images you have chosen. What theme(s) or message(s) are you speaking to you about what is attracting you through these images?

Create a Mandala or purchase a Mandala workbook – this symbol of the spiritual journey will lead you to reflection, add color to the geometric patterns through the layers from the outside to the inside, as an instrument of meditation. What emerges as a lesson for you? (you can find printable Mandala pages free online).

Read a Psalm until you find a phrase that feeds you, stop there, repeat that phrase, enter into a moment of reflection about what struck you. How is this
phrase feeding you at this time? What does it say about what you need at this time?

Walk the Labyrinth – The walk from the entrance to the center is the first part of the path a time to unburden yourself, creating space for an encounter with the divine. The center is the place where the walker receives illumination or rests in the presence of the divine, retracing the path back offers time to integrate the insights that have come on the journey.

Gyan Mudra – Sit in a comfortable position, join your thumb and first finger, rest quietly and notice the energy that is created as it focuses your mind on a state of meditation. Simply rest in the divine.

Start a gratitude journal – Every night list 3-5 things you are grateful for that day. How does this prayer help you to review your day in a reflective manner? What did you notice about the presence of the divine in your day?

Take a walk, or sit somewhere you can gaze on nature –How is the Creator speaking with you? What message is particularly yours in this journey/reflection? Pause for a minute to let this settle into your soul. Drink in the sacred pause.

Haiku – A great way to express/remember a moment in prayer. Use this short-form poem that has 17 syllables, first line 5, second line 7, and third line 5. It focuses on a brief moment of time, captures images, and offers insight. The process of finding only 17 syllables to express your reflection helps you to capture the essence of any moment in time. Other forms of poetry and prose are powerful too! Give it a try!

Spiritual Reading – Enter into a place of prayer by picking up a book by a spiritual writer, notice the lines and phrases that jump out at you. How is the reading an invitation from the divine to look at a particular issue in your life or lift a prayer for people who are struggling?

Get in touch with the memory of what the divine (Creator, Redeemer and Spirit) has done in your life – You can write your own gospel, your witness to the action of the divine in your life. Holy Scripture writings do just this, the stories evoke images of the action of the divine in the lives of the people.

For 2 minutes imagine you are basking in the Light of Christ – How does the divine light transform you? What insight do you gain in this experience?

Listen to a Guided Meditation – Allow yourself to rest in a sacred space for a meditation that leads you to experience the presence of the divine in the present moment. There are many guided meditations available online. Find one that inspires you.

Art – Get creative, draw, paint, weave, quilt, etc. How does your creative spirit connect you with the divine Spirit? How does it deepen your spirituality? How is the action of the divine in you conveyed to others through your work?

Photography – Capture photos of the natural world, the busy street or a vacation spot. Sit quietly and reflect deeper on the meaning of the images you chose to take. Where do the photos lead you in prayer?


Michelle Grgurich, SCN, currently on sabbatical, most recently served as the Director of the Office of Congregational Ministries for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth for 11 years. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she received her Bachelors in Business Administration and Master of Arts in Theology/Religious Education from Duquesne University. Previously, she served as the Director of the Department for Persons with Disabilities in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. She is fluent in American Sign Language. In addition, she participates in the music ministry at St. Vincent Church.

Want to read more from the Toolbox for Prayer series? Click the links below.

Praying with Vincent de Paul

Vincent de Paul was a French priest of the 17th century whose legacy continues to this day in all who seek to live the Charism of Charity. In his early days as a priest, Vincent was challenged to discover the true meaning of his life and vocation.
Vincent was an intelligent person, a naturally gifted teacher, and well educated. Vincent was open to and often sought the counsel of others. Through the events of his personal life, his experiences as a priest, his encounters with the poor and
needy, and his openness to the grace of God, Vincent came to recognize the Providence of God leading him as his driving force.

Using Prose as a Stepping Stone into my Prayer Time with God

I often use my prose that I produce as a creative writer, as a stepping-stone into my prayer time with God.

A Journey with Prophets

The novices were delighted to attend the class of Sister Jane Karakunnel on scriptures, especially on prophets and the Gospel of John from July 11 to Aug. 4, 2022

Dance as Prayer

Dance was always a part of my life growing up. I am from German heritage so polkas, along with the chicken dance, conga lines, the hokey pokey were a big part of our family celebrations. Our joy and enjoyment was expressed with our whole being – mind, heart and body. I loved it!

But, I never thought of dance as prayer until the novitiate. Our novice director, Sister Mary Pauletta, had a Sister friend from another community who visited her when I was a first-year novice. This was in the post Vatican II days when lots of new ideas were emerging. The Sister friend introduced us to liturgical dance. She choreographed several dances to psalm songs and many of us participated. Though her name is long lost in my memory, I will never forget the gift she gave me by introducing body as well as mind and heart to my way of praying. I loved it!

The Legacy of Mother Catherine Spalding

Catherine believed that God is truly present everywhere – in each person, in each circumstance of life she encountered. Through prayer and reflection she would discern, what is the loving thing to do here, right now? Then with confidence and faith she would daringly utilize all the various means at her disposal to accomplish the task that was before her and always with a gentle spirit and a loving heart.

What Leads me to God?

A quick and easy answer to this all important question, “What leads me to God?” might be, “Everything!” That answer bears much truth in it. Plunging more deeply, however, reveals places and happenings, situations and persons who bring God front and center into my life. It could be a beautiful tree, an imposing mountain, a peaceful, winding river, the discovery of a poem, a passage from Scripture, being alert and finding God wherever the divine may be waiting for me. Places would be where Eucharist dwells and where I sit to pray. The places where I find the beauties of nature bring God right to me. A fragile flower, a singing bird, a lovely cloud call out the Creator’s name.

Heart Meditation

This Toolbox for Prayer post is a video from Sister Chris Kunze. Sister Chris provides the opportunity to reflect on the idea that there is no greater gift you can offer, that the energy of an open heart. An open heart has the qualities of unconditional love, a healing presence, innate harmony, and compassion. Opening our hearts to these qualities allows for joy filled service to be possible. 

The Rhythm of Contemplation

Rhythm is known as the repeated patterns of movement or sound while contemplation is known as deep reflective thoughts that form who we are as a person. We each have a rhythm of life and how we contemplate. The rhythm of who we are flows out of us every day. As I stop to contemplate, I have come to realize that my way of contemplation is a rhythm of loving.

Using Inclusive Language and Feminine Images of God in Prayer

We all know that God is spirit and as such has no sex or gender. Unfortunately, language is too limited to describe an infinite, transcendent, non-human God with whom we desire to have a“personal” relationship. We can only talk about God in metaphors, knowing that we will never fully be able to describe God.

While male metaphors for God abound in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), there are female metaphors to help offset an overly male God view.

See No Stranger

This Toolbox for Prayer post is a video from Sister Chris Kunze. Sister Chris encourages us all to let our light shine and “see no stranger”. We must look beyond ones outward appearance, and instead see them as a sister or brother that we do not yet know. This allows us to open ourselves up to the possibility of connection, let go of the impulse to view others as different, and enables us to pay attention to others stories.


  1. Angie Shaughnessy SCN

    Michelle-such wise and beautiful tips. Thank you!!

  2. Liz

    Thank you- good reminders …

  3. Rita D.

    Thanks Michelle. My back porch is one of my favorite prayer spot. If you ever want to experience it, come on over. In all kinds of weather, it offers various animals, trees, yard, sun and shade. All are welcome!

  4. Maggie Vargas

    Thank you for sharing! Sometimes we do not realize we are praying by simply admiring God’s wonderful works!

  5. Roselyn

    Thank you Michelle. Your tips for prayer, I am sure is your own experience.. I sincerely appreciate your generosity and simplicity in sharing it with all of us.. ❤️

  6. Connie Tarallo

    Thankful, helpful and easy to manage ! Michelle, a great Tool Box of Prayer for everyone ! Blessings !

  7. jessie saldanha

    Beautiful Michelle ,simple yet profound thoughts to pray, thanks for sharing

  8. Blanche Correia

    Grateful to you Michelle for guiding and showing us the Path in connecting with Divine

  9. Rita Puthenkalam

    Thanks, Michelle, for sharing your personal experience in payer.
    It certainly does help…

  10. Nimmie

    Thank you Michelle. There is so much simplicity in this article that anyone can relate to.

    • Carlette

      Thanks Michelle sometimes we make prayer so complicated. Thanks for reminding us of the simplicity and ease of prayer.

      • Basanti Lakra

        Thank you Michelle for sharing this Toolbox for prayer. These tools are simple to achieve the purpose in diverse ways.

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