You have heard it said that if you are too busy to pray then you are too busy. But really, how can you fit it all in? That was once my question until I learned to find pockets of time in my day with which to fill with prayer.
As a busy mother of ten children, (not all are still home) without these pockets I would go it alone most days. Instead, I have found that living a contemplative life in a busy world can be done by finding little opportunities to fill with God.
“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17) is a Biblical command. So, as soon as you arise, begin your day speaking to God. Before stepping out of bed, say good morning to your Creator, thank Him for the restful night or ask Him to get you through the day if it was less-than restful. Think about the day ahead. Ask for God’s blessings on all that you do, for the loving guidance and protection of our Blessed Mother and for the intercession of all the angels and saints. It will start you on your day surer than a cup of coffee.
Speaking of coffee, you will find time to pray throughout the day which I refer to as “waiting pockets.” Waiting for the coffee to brew, the shower to get hot, the microwave to beep, the computer to start up, your car engine to heat up, the traffic light to change…there are endless numbers of things you wait for in the day. Most of these waits are small, but plenty big enough to fill with a prayer or a few words directed to Heaven.
The Jesus Prayer is an easy one to fill these small pockets. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” or “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in You,” are prayers than can be repeated endlessly through any wait or mundane task. Repeating a short sentence can keep your mind on God.
Are you worried about the scripture passage: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matt. 6:7)? This is sometimes interpreted as “vain repetition.”
If the purpose of your prayer is simply to impress yourself or others and prove how holy you are, then yes, it would be vain repetition, regardless of whether you are repeating a prayer or just babbling. But if your goal is to connect with God–to pray unceasingly–then there is nothing vain in your actions. The key word is vain, not repetition. Even the angels in Heaven repeat their prayers: “Day and night they do not stop exclaiming: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come” (Rev. 4:8).
Turn to God in All Things
Throughout your day there are continual decisions you must make and situations to act on. Before settling an argument or disciplining your children, say a quick prayer. Whether you work in or out of the home, lay all your decisions and tasks at the feet of our Lord. Do not tackle a project without first praying for guidance. This also gives you time out so you do not make rash decisions. Stop and acknowledge God’s omnipotence and ask that your decisions and actions be guided by Him.
You can teach your kids to do the same by praying with them. If you are teaching a child to ride a two-wheeler, say a prayer first. Before a big game or going out to sell raffle tickets, join them in prayer. This will give your kids the habit of prayer. Soon they will be the ones to come to you to pray with them before they tackle a new challenge.
As you start to fill your pockets of time with prayer, you will be amazed at how your prayers will increase without altering your schedule. Still, you can go the next step and schedule prayer at natural times with very little change in your actual routine.
Morning family prayer is a perfect way to start the day, although not always easy to accomplish. As much as you are able, however, consider taking a minute to gather with your family and say the Morning Offering and maybe another prayer or two, before going your separate ways. I tell my children they should pray as soon as they arise, but with family prayer we gather together as a unit before the Lord. What better way to begin the day than by joining your loved ones and placing yourself in God’s care?
Prayer before meals is a natural. And do not let it go by the wayside just because you are eating out. To skip grace at the restaurant teaches your children that you are ashamed to thank God for your food when others are around. A quiet blessing need not attract a lot of attention, but it speaks volumes to children.
The three o’clock hour is a time you can stop and reflect on the reason for our salvation; Jesus’ death on the cross. If you have a watch with an alarm or an alarm clock nearby, consider setting it for three in the afternoon. That little beep can act as a reminder to reflect a moment on God’s love; that He sent His Son to die on the cross for us. Even if you just stop and say, “Thank you, Jesus,” you have connected with God in a powerful way.
Bedtime prayers should also be a time when the family gathers together. Even if you have older ones staying out later, gather those who are home. Praying as a family for everyone’s intentions is a way to cement bonds to each other and with God.
Pray How and When You Can
When you look at your life for what it is–a brief moment on earth before eternity–it’s clear that time spent in prayer will be some of your most productive moments. Of course you have many responsibilities, but think of all the times you can squeeze a little more of God into your day.
How about grabbing a rosary before you leave for a jog, a walk or the exercise bike? If you cannot fit a whole rosary into your day, consider doing a decade here and there throughout the day. Driving to work or taking the kids to school can lend itself to a decade or two.
Try setting your alarm earlier to give yourself time for serious prayer and reflection. Buy good religious music you can enjoy while accomplishing life’s mundane tasks, such as housework. By listening or singing along, you will be praying. There are also many tapes available with testimonials, instructions and general religious inspirations that can take our mind off our work or driving and lift us up.
Once you begin looking for empty spaces in your life to fill with God, you will be amazed at all the opportunities you missed previously. For me the key has simply been thinking about praying. When I did not think about it, I did not do it…blaming my busy schedule all the while. But I have discovered that even in the busiest of lives, opportunities for prayer abound. Now that I value prayer as an essential aid to living in union with Christ, I fill my life with it, one pocket at a time.
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