Is there a best time to pray, given all the activities each day holds for me—working at my job and caring for and being with my family makes a very full day? Also, I’m not fully awake first thing in the morning and already mighty tired by the time I lay my head on the pillow. I thought I would “Ask a Carmelite Sister” for her input on how I can find some time to pray.
I commend highly your desire to find the “right time to pray.” During a retreat, a priest shared that each person has a built-in clock. We have expressions to confirm his statement. People say, “I’m not an early morning person” or “I do my best work at night when everyone else is asleep.” So, your question is a good one.
The important thing is that you want to pray. You yearn to spend some time with God in prayer. Each person has to find the “islands of prayer” in the sea of our frenzied activity so apparent in our culture. I know a person who works in downtown Los Angeles and parks his car several blocks away from where he works so that he can walk and pray both going to and from his job. I know another person who has made it a habitual practice to consciously drive by his parish church on the way home from work and spend fifteen minutes in the adoration chapel before driving home. I know a mom who locks the bathroom door and prays. St. Teresa says, “We need no wings to go in search of God, but only to find a place where we can be alone and communicate with Him, who dwells within us.”
I asked some of my Carmelite Sisters what they do to pray during the day. We sisters, too, are busy about the Lord’s work in our portion of His vineyard. We get up at 4:55 a.m. in order to pray before our actual workday begins. But that doesn’t seem right to me. Prayer IS our work, our priority. We actually pray nearly two hours before breakfast. Our decision to join our Carmelite community was precisely because Carmelites do just that—Carmelites pray.
The following “Prayer Tips” are from my Carmelite Sisters. Maybe one or more will help you, as it has helped them.
Ten Practical Prayer Tips from the Carmelite Sisters
- Take a line from the liturgy of the day and repeat it during the day—a new line every day. The responsorial psalm and the Gospel Acclamation theme are good ones to use.
- Let a spiritual thought from a hymn or a book or Mass be as background music in your mind during the day.
- Take a holy card (or picture) of Christ and place it where you can see it so that you may think of Him.
- Make a spiritual communion every hour. I set the stop watch I use.
- Fix your inward gaze upon Him amidst your occupations.
- Find a “trigger moment,” such as putting your keys on the desk; turning off the computer, or laying out clothes for the next day that can serve as a reminder to take a moment for short prayer.
- Instead of a coffee break, take a short prayer break. In the mid-morning or mid-afternoon, get up and move into a different space and think of God.
- I think of God every time I look at a watch or clock.
- I sing hymns in my heart during the day.
- Make Spiritual aspirations during the day. (See below)
What are Spiritual Aspirations? (From the spiritual works of St. Francis de Sales)
“My child, aspire continually to God, by brief, ardent upliftings of heart; praise God, invoke His aid, cast yourself in spirit at the Foot of His Cross, adore His Goodness, offer your whole soul a thousand times a day to Him, fix your inward gaze upon Him, stretch out your hands to be led by Him, as a little child to its father, clasp Him to your breast as a fragrant bouquet.
In short, enkindle by every possible action your love for God, your tender, passionate desire for the Heavenly Bridegroom of souls. Such is prayer of aspiration, as it was so earnestly inculcated by Saint Augustine; and be sure, my child, that if you seek such nearness and intimacy with God your whole soul will imbibe the perfume of His Perfections.
Neither is this a difficult practice—it may be interwoven with all our duties and occupations, without hindering any; for neither the spiritual retreat of which I have spoken, nor these inward upliftings of the heart, cause more than a very brief distraction, which, so far from being any hindrance, will rather promote whatever you are doing. The practice of these short aspirations can supply all our deficiencies, but without a true contemplative life cannot be lived, and the active life will be but imperfect.” (St. Francis de Sales)
Thank you for your question and until next time,
Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D.
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