Sisters, I recently wrote to you about this long season I’ve been in — one that feels too long for a self proclaimed Christian and former missionary. It’s the season of not praying. Yes, you read that right: not praying.
I’m sure I’m not alone in the feeling that, sometimes, prayer just seems impossible.
Now, I know that prayer is actually not impossible. I know, intellectually, I have more than enough time in my day to offer heartfelt prayer that is sincere, mindful and genuine. But lately, with baby schedules, a big move and constantly adjusting hormones, it honestly just seems overwhelming. And I don’t do well with overwhelming.
This, however, is not the end of the story.
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After writing to you about my struggles to pray, I started to see the fruit of prayer bubbling up in my heart once again. It wasn’t the picture-perfect prayer that I imagine in my head when I think of prayer, but it was something, and it was good.
I was reading a beautiful book by a mother of five who began scheduling and prioritizing her life. After putting in this hard work, she began to see the fruits of her labor as she experienced more freedom, joy, free time and purpose.
But when I read about her prayer life, I was honestly so discouraged. It was so robust and full, so diverse and expansive. “This woman prays five times throughout the day, and I can barely pray for five minutes,” I thought to myself. “What am I missing?”
After chatting with a dear friend, she encouraged me to rethink my disposition toward this woman’s prayer life and my own. “We can’t compare prayer lives. We can’t compare children. We can’t compare families. All we can do is give God whatever we have to give and trust that it is enough.”
With this wisdom in mind, I would like to give three practical ways that, in a matter of days, I have prayed more fervently than I have in a long time. For the record, fervent doesn’t mean long. It means passionately intense. So these prayers are not about quantity, type or devotion. They’re just honest words with Our Lord.
1. Give God your heart in the moment
I had gone to bed at 11:30 p.m., had been woken up four times, and was up for the day holding my baby to get a little extra sleep at 5:30 a.m. Unbeknownst to me, he was getting a cold, and the next few days were going to be hard. I was annoyed at everyone. And not very nice (still working on that perfection thing).
I mustered what little strength I had at nap time to put the dishes away, and I caught myself meditating at the sink on my anger at everyone around me. But, in a moment of grace, I realized I was blaming everyone else for things they couldn’t control while taking no responsibility for poorly handling the little control I had.
So, in that moment at the sink, I repented. I repented of my judgments. I repented of my meanness. I repented of a generally bad attitude. I repented of the lies I believed about my husband and children. And I asked for the grace to be forgiven, to forgive and to change. All while putting away clean bowls and silverware.
Prayer isn’t complicated. It’s messy sometimes, but those moments are honest and true. And that’s all God wants. He wants us in our perfections and imperfections, in adoration and at the kitchen sink. He wants us everywhere and anywhere he can get us.
So next time you find yourself in a mindful moment, give whatever you have — joy, praise, thanksgiving, sorrow, repentance — to him.
2. Use recorded media
I want to pray the Rosary daily. I’ve wanted to for a long time. There are many people in this world who, when they want to do something, just do it. My husband is one of those people. I am not.
Then, I discovered Bishop Robert Barron’s recorded Rosaries on Spotify. I was also told to check out Hallow. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also records the daily readings on its website.
While I still don’t pray the Rosary every day, I pray it a lot more than I used to. Sometimes all at once, sometimes throughout the day in pieces. In my backyard, on a walk, in the car or sitting on the couch in my living room.
While recorded media isn’t a replacement for quiet mental prayer free of technology and distractions, it sure is a good tool that we’ve been given for those busiest, most exhausting days. Whether it’s lectio divina, a Rosary or chaplet, or a guided meditation, these and many other resources like them are great ways to get some sort of prayer in your day.
And hopefully, as you grow more mindful through the use of these tools, Jesus will be more readily on your mind and heart during those moments that you do get a chance to pray alone and in silence.
3. ‘Offer it up’? Actually, yes
I know, I know. I said “offer it up.” I’m cringing a little bit, too. But this phrase isn’t so commonplace because it holds no importance. There’s a reason cliches become cliche. Because they’re true.
The other morning, I wanted to spend five minutes reflecting on the Gospel while my son played with his trucks. But he wanted me to read him the beloved book “Thank You, Omu.” He was all but begging.
There was no right answer at that moment, but with my son looking into my eyes and needing some love and attention, I said to God in my heart, “It’s not the Gospel, but it’s for you, Lord.”
Reading that book to my son was a prayer — an act of love offered to God in gratitude for my little redhead’s life and eagerness to spend time reading with me. And I can only imagine Jesus’ heart full of joy in partaking in this act with me. I did get to read the Gospel later that morning as my son watched a kids show on FORMED.org. And I had the peace of knowing that I was doing what I could to say yes to God, both with my prayer and within my vocation.
These are simple steps in a good direction. I don’t want this to be the whole of what my prayer life consists of forever. I do, however, have confidence that God is not scowling at me but, rather, is pleased with me in the same way that I am pleased when my son “cleans up” by piling everything in the living room onto the couch. It’s not perfect, it’s messy, but his heart is pure and desirous of something good. And that is good enough for me.
Sister, I’m with you in the struggle. Will you pray for me? Next time I take a mindful moment, I will pray for you, too. To have the grace to give God whatever prayer you have for him today. To have the confidence that he loves you not because of what you do but because you are his. And to be free from the shame that comes with our prideful desires of perfection.
You are good, and I am walking with you. And so is Our Lord.