Sweep Up The Crumbs―Growing In Our Prayer Life
While a priest was deep in prayer at his desk, his secretary burst into his office. "Thank goodness," she exclaimed in relief, "I see you're not busy!" This joke suggests how easy it is to view prayer as unimportant, considering everything we have heaped on our plates.
So often our daily responsibilities and hectic routines seem to preclude time for prayer. Just getting through the day can be a major accomplishment! Everyone seems to be running around 24/7, and we wind up anxious, overburdened, and exhausted. When we feel this way, prayer becomes just one more box to check off on a "to do" list that's already way too long.
It doesn't help that our culture is burdened by a "bias toward busyness." Our world values who we know, how much we have, what we do, and what we look like doing it. In this climate, we fear losing our edge or falling behind. And since prayer doesn't seem to produce immediate results, let alone a product, we can dismiss it as a waste of effort or a luxury for those with too much time on their hands.
Jesus appreciates what we face; he knows what it's like to be busy. During his ministry, he was often in great demand. Crowds sought him out day and night. It seemed like everybody wanted something from him: a moment of his time, a word of wisdom, a healing touch. All the while, Jesus was on the move, traveling from town to town. Yet the Gospels tell us how, in spite of everything he had to do, Jesus would rise before dawn and pray in solitude. In doing so, he sets an important example for us.
Above all, Jesus prayed because he wanted to spend time with the Father he loved, just as the Father loved him in return. Catholic tradition understands this love as the Holy Spirit. Through the same Spirit, Jesus and the Father share this same love with us. Once we appreciate this, we'll understand that God invites us to prayer not to annoy us, inconvenience us, overburden us, or give us something to feel guilty about, but simply because he loves us so much.
God is constantly reaching out to touch our lives and bring us closer together. Faith is our response to this; it's the foundation of our relationship with God. And as with any relationship, communication is a key to success. For our relationship with God to be honest, fruitful, and deep, we need to communicate with God. We call this communication "prayer," and it's necessary for our faith's health. Understood this way, prayer isn't a waste of time. Instead, if we wish to have a strong faith, time spent in prayer is essential. After all, trust is established only with time. Love grows only with time. And mutual knowledge is built only over time.
Yet finding that time can be hard. Saint Francis de Sales once said that all of us should pray for a half hour each day, except when we're busy-and then we need an hour! But how on earth can we find a half hour a day for prayer―let alone an hour? Saint Francis himself gives us a hint: "Aspire often to God by short, burning elevations of the heart,"! In other words, we can lift up little prayers to God during the little crumbs of time we have throughout our day. And should we gather all these crumbs together, we may be surprised to discover how much time for prayer we actually have!
Our days are filled with opportunities to meet God, think of him, speak with him, and listen to him. Never is there a situation or circumstance in which he is not present. Yet these golden moments can so easily slip through our hands, and God can slide right past us, totally unnoticed. So what can we do? Perhaps we might rise a few minutes earlier each morning or stay up a few minutes later each night, even just once or twice a week. Also, we can take advantage of those little quiet moments that punctuate our day: behind the steering wheel, over the stove, in the shower, waiting in the checkout line, and so forth. And if we're a runner or a walker, we might take a rosary along with us.
Another way to pray more is to make it a habit to pray at the beginning and the end of regular daily events. For instance, we can say a prayer when we first wake up, and again when we turn in for the night. We can also pray at the beginning and end of meals, during commutes to and from our jobs, and when starting and finishing our work. We can pray when we tuck our kids in, pray when we drop them off at school, and again when we pick them up.
Saint Paul encourages us to pray without ceasing! But that's not something that can happen overnight. It's best to start small and then build from there. As a popular slogan puts it, we should "pray as we can and not as we can't." Catholic author Robert Wicks encourages people to pray at least two minutes a day. That advice is often received with skepticism because people generally feel that they owe more time to God than that. But Wicks explains that "simple constant deeds are always more meaningful than rarely fulfilled great promises. And besides, everyone, without exception, can find at least two quality minutes a day to spend with the Lord.
Even a few daily moments of prayer, however, will set the stage for a deeper relationship with God. It will certainly strengthen our faith when it feels fragile! And we'll likely find that it will increase our desire to spend even more time with God. We'll also see, perhaps slowly at first, that our lives will have begun to change for the better. So sweep up all the little crumbs of time you have for prayer! They'll provide ample food to feed your faith.
from When Faith Feels Fragile―Help for the Wary, Weak, and Wandering by R. Scott Hurd pp. 53-56