SummaryNo time to pray? Teresa Collins reminds us that activities in our busy lives are precisely the opportunities to turn toward God in intimate conversation.
“Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do; they ‘don’t have the time’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 2726). Yet St. Paul tells us to “pray” (I Thessalonians 5:17).
St. John Eudes says, “Look upon prayer as the first, the principal, the most necessary, the most urgent, and the most important business of your life” (A Year with the Saints: Daily Meditations with the Holy Ones of God, edited by Paul Thigpen. Charlotte, North Carolina, St. Benedict Press, 2013).
Prayer is indispensable if we want to live our lives according to the Gospel, if we desire to draw closer to Christ.
But how do we find the time to pray? How, in particular, can mothers, busy with the seemingly endless cares involved in raising their children, and in many cases homeschooling their children as well, find the time to pray? My father used to tell us children that you can’t give what you don’t have.
How can we as parents “pray without ceasing” and give to our children a love of prayer and a sense of its necessity?
“It is possible to offer fervent prayer even while walking in public or strolling alone, or seated in your shop, …. while buying or selling or even while cooking (St John Chrysostom quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2744). What we are called upon to practice without ceasing is the “prayer of the heart.”
This kind of prayer is “the immediate effect of divine grace, whereby a person is disposed to do the will of God” (Theology of Prayer, John Hardon, S.J. Eternal Life, Bardstown, Kentucky).
This prayer does not need to be formal prayer in the sense of vocal or mental prayer, but may be called the prayer of habit, which is the inclination or willingness to practice our love of God—“If the mind is devoted to other objects because it has to [be], the heart never is” (Theology of Prayer, John Hardon, S.J. Eternal Life, Bardstown, Kentucky).
In other words, we are able to pray always because our hearts do not cease to be devoted to God, to love God, even when our minds and hands are busy with the many duties required by our vocations.
We make each day our Morning Offering to God, rendering Him “all our prayers, works, sufferings, and joys of this day,” in effect consecrating everything we do during the day to Him.
It is a good practice to renew this prayer periodically throughout the day, even in the midst of all our duties. Renewing the consecration of our day to God enables us to remember that everything we think and do is an offering, a conversation with God, a prayer.
The prayer of the heart, this offering to God of our entire day and its activities, does not cancel the obligation we have to make time in our lives for formal prayer, both as families and as individuals.
While God may not expect from busy mothers as much time devoted to formal prayer as He expects from those who have fewer cares, if we are content to let formal prayer fall by the wayside during all the years in which it is difficult to find time for it, then we lose the habit of formal prayer.
We cannot put time for formal prayer “on hold,” so to speak, and expect that we can pick it up where we left off twenty years ago. So how do we make time for formal prayer?
Can we arrange our days so that we have at least some time to pray in calmness and silence?
One way to ensure some time for formal prayer is to do what many Catholic families already do, which is to pray the rosary together as a family before bedtime.
During this time the younger children can learn to be still and quiet, and can be introduced to the idea that prayer is important. The older children will also realize, since their parents set aside this time for formal prayer as a family, that prayer is central to our lives.
One way of finding time for our own individual prayer is to make sure that we have order with regard to our children’s schedules. If children have a regular bedtime, mothers can have at least some time to pray in the evening when the house is quiet.
Getting up a little earlier in the morning than your children provides time for some morning prayers and also for time alone to prepare for the busy day ahead. A mother can do this even when nursing her baby while the older children are still asleep.
I found that getting up earlier than my children provided much needed time alone in which to recruit my strength, to pray, perhaps to do a little spiritual reading, and in general to be ready to face the day ahead.
When our children were no longer infants or toddlers, and were old enough to be left alone for a while, I used to walk for thirty minutes every week day, which allowed me to say a rosary.
If a mother has an entire range of ages among her children, she can put the older ones in charge of the younger ones, and take a short walk while praying the rosary or a chaplet, thus accomplishing three goals at once: prayer, mental refreshment, and exercise.
Another way to provide some quiet time for individual prayer is to have the children spend twenty minutes to half an hour in the afternoon being quiet, perhaps reading by themselves or having an older child read to the younger ones. Mothers then have a little time for prayer and spiritual reading.
If it is possible, praying as a family at Mass, even if the father cannot be present, is a very good practice.
Perhaps the family can attend Mass once or twice a week on a week day, even if not every day.
St. Teresa of Avila says that the essence of prayer consists not in thinking much, but in loving much.
“The heart….can always love, even when the mind is busy elsewhere….since supernatural love does not consist in sentiment, but in an intimate orientation of the will towards God, we know that this turning [toward God] is possible, even during the performance of duties which absorb all our attention” (Divine Intimacy, Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. Rockford, Illinois, 1996).
Thus we see that even the busiest lives provide the means for prayer.
If we remember the “prayer of the heart,” that prayer which makes us incline towards practicing our love for God, we will realize as mothers that our many duties and occupations are “precisely God’s way of providing us with opportunities for putting our prayer of the heart into practice” (Theology of Prayer, John Hardon, S.J. Eternal Life, Bardstown, Kentucky).
And if we so arrange our lives that we have some time for family and individual formal prayer as well, we will develop the habit of prayer in ourselves and help to develop it in our children. This habit of prayer will then take us to the end of our lives here on earth.
Our lives will then have been filled with “the continual prayer to which every rational creature is bound.” (St. Catherine of Siena, quoted in Divine Intimacy, Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen. Tan Books and Publishers, Rockford, Illinois, 1996).
We will have accomplished St. Paul’s injunction to pray ceaselessly.