Well, every night while I am getting ready for bed, I pray a novena. A novena is a type of prayer in the Catholic Church where one repetitively prays for an act of grace over a specific period of time. In particular, I pray the 54-day rosary novena which consists of 27 days of prayer in petition of something followed by another 27 days of Thanksgiving in anticipation of the petition being answered. So, every night, I pray a rosary for a specific petition that I established at the start of the 54 days.
The first novena that I ever prayed was back during my freshman year of college. I started it, appropriately, on January 1, and the beginning felt like trial by error. I couldn't remember the last time I had formally sat down to pray the rosary, and having the added pressure of having to reflect upon the Joyful, Sorrowful, or Glorious Mysteries (depending on the day) only made my prayers more flustered. I can't tell you how many times I would start a Hail Mary and then start over because I had gotten distracted, absolutely convinced that my prayers weren't going to be heard since I couldn't recite a single prayer without having my thoughts wander. That was when I really knew I wanted my petitions to be heard and answered, when I became OCD about getting it perfect. Did I get any better at it? Much better. Do I still mess up? Absolutely. But I learned to relax and concentrate on the words, knowing that God doesn't expect me to be perfect so long as my heart is in the right place.
The real question: Were my prayers answered? Honestly, you're guess is as good as mine, but I think yes. My petition at the time was really more focused on life meaning and purpose, not something specific and tangible, so I suspect the answer to that novena is still being unfolded. I think the more immediate effect of the novena was to bring me peace of mind, and that was valuable in and of itself.
After my first novena in 2011, I didn't pray another one until this past summer. And when I started it on July 12, I had only one petition in mind. David. It was already halfway through the summer, and I knew that when August hit, he would be graduating and leaving for Chicago just a few short weeks later. So that night in July, I sat in bed and laid down my petitions to God. I prayed that He would help us make the most of the rest of the summer together; I prayed that He would prepare David for the transition to Chicago; and I prayed that He would help us through this difficult time of being apart, to augment our love through the distance that would separate us, and to never lose sight of the other person. I prayed that, ususally while crying, for the next 54 days until September 3 which fatefully, coincidentally, what have you, was the day before David started his new job.
When that novena was over, I started another. And when that novena was over, I started the one that I am currently praying. I've discovered that there's nothing like ending the day by lifting my heart up in petition of things that really mean a lot to me, so it's probably safe to say that this novena won't be my last either.
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers of you, I always pray with joy."
- Philippians 1:3-4