Grow Closer to God

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An adaptable prayer service to prepare for Penance or other occasions


A new calendar year begins, and it presents a wonderful opportunity to begin with a clean slate between you and God? This prayer service is for youth and adults, those preparing to receive sacraments in the next few months, or for a catechist meeting to help those serving in ministry to take stock and see where they’d like to grow closer to God. It could also be part of a larger service where priests are available for the sacrament of Penance.

Prayer service

Opening prayer

LEADER: Father God, we desire to be with you always. It is not easy to know what to do next in our spiritual journey. Today we come and ask you to show us what is next. We come with faith, trust, and love that you will guide us to what is necessary and best. Be with us as we pray to know ourselves better and grow closer to you. Amen.


Choose someone from the group ahead of time to read Matthew 19:16-23, about the rich young man. It is easy to quickly read this passage and think, Well, I am certainly not rich, so I don’t need to worry. I think, though, we can ask Jesus the same question: “What do I still lack?”

READER: A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
Glory to You O Lord.
Read the passage; when done pause and say: The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
After the reading of the Gospel, ask the group to sit quietly for a minute, reflecting on the passage. Then, read the following slowly to the group, allowing time between the phrases and sentences for people to reflect.


LEADER: Lord, the young man wants to love you. He desires to give you more of himself, just as I do. He wonders what more can he give to you, and with trust and faith, he asks you how to be better.

I want to be better. Not for my sake, but for you. My love for you, the gratitude for all you have given me, wants to respond to you. And so I ask, what do I still lack? Humility? Trust in your care? Faith that overrides my fear? Open hands to share my money or possessions? Speak to me, Lord.

What do I need to rid myself of to be closer to you? Control over my time? Pride? My need to be better than others? Perfection? Show me, Lord, what needs to go.

My goal is heaven, eternal life in glory with you. You sacrificed all to give me salvation. And while I cannot repay you, I want to try. I don’t want to turn away and leave you. I want to embrace you and what you are asking of me. I want for myself what you want for me.

PSALM 30: Ask six people to each read one verse; number their copies, so they know when it is their turn.

RESPONSE: Hear, O Lord, have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper. I praise you, Lord, for you raised me up and did not let my enemies rejoice over me. Lord, my God, I cried out to you for help and you healed me.

Lord, you brought my soul up from Sheol; you let me live, from going down to the pit. Sing praise to the Lord, you faithful; give thanks to his holy memory.

For his anger lasts but a moment; his favor a lifetime. At dusk weeping comes for the night; but at dawn there is rejoicing.

Complacent, I once said, “I shall never be shaken.” Lord, you showed me favor, established for me mountains of virtue. But when you hid your face I was struck with terror.

To you, Lord, I cried out; with the Lord I pleaded for mercy: “What gain is there from my lifeblood, from my going down to the grave? Does dust give you thanks or declare your faithfulness?

You changed my mourning into dancing; you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. So that my glory may praise you and not be silent. O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks.

Closing prayer

LEADER: Father, thank you for this time of renewal. Continue to work in us as we follow you, knowing that we desire to become who you call us to be and do what you call us to do. Amen.


Use one of the following songs to close the prayer time, encouraging people to stand and sing together. (The videos contain the song lyrics.)


DEANNA BARTALINI, MEd and MPA, is a writer, speaker, and catechist serving on the retreat team at Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center in North Palm Beach, Florida. She is the author of Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women: Invite the Holy Spirit into Your Life (Our Sunday Visitor). Find more at

This article was originally published in Catechist, January 2020.

PHOTO: AsianDelight/iStock

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