Praying When You're Too Busy To Pray
Our church bookclub recently finished the book Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert. Part biography and part explanation of five things Mr. Evert deemed most important to this amazing pope and saint, the book was a page-turning and inspiring read.
It must be impossible to read about this great saint without desiring to amend some aspect of one’s own life in imitation of his holiness. Among the amazing aspects of Saint John Paul the Great’s life was his devotion to near constant prayer.
My own prayer life had been inconsistent and of little depth in recent months, so I decided that now would be the perfect time to make some changes.
Jumping In With Both Feet
Inspired by Saint John Paul the Great’s other great devotion to Mary, I thought that the daily Rosary would be a good place to start. Some of the women in the book club recommended saying the Rosary while doing other tasks, such as driving or doing dishes. After some rather questionable driving, loading dirty dishes into the dishwasher with clean ones and falling asleep while praying in the evening, I decided that I need to pray the Rosary when I am neither busy nor tired.
This thought was closely followed by: “I am always busy and tired, so when will I ever pray?” It was no less discouraging to realize that my prayer life had dwindled to the point that saying the Rosary was jumping in too quickly. I could envision a life wherein I might be able to pray at least a small fraction of the time that this great saint did, but how to get there?
While pondering this dilemma, I remembered a recent parenting situation requiring small steps to reach a lofty goal. I had taken a parenting class after realizing that while my daughter was very good at being three, I was very bad at being the parent of a three-year-old. The class was more helpful than I had envisioned, providing empathy-centered techniques for managing difficult parenting situations. I indulged a vision of a peaceful household with few struggles and smiles on everyone’s faces. So excited was I to reach this goal that I began using all of the new parenting skills for a variety of difficult behaviors and situations.
Everything went fairly smoothly, until we had a bad day. On a day where one child suddenly decides that using the potty might be optional, while the other goes running around with peanut butter covered hands and open markers, new parenting skills just go out the window. In the face of the chaos I reverted back to previous parenting tactics, leaving all three of us feeling frustrated.
It's Okay To Start Slowly
The vision for a more peaceful household was still there, but I certainly could not expect to master a new set of skills in a few days. It was time to slow down. I needed to master one new parenting skill at a time, deal with one problem behavior at a time and gradually reach the goal of a peaceful, joy-filled home.
The same must be true of prayer. It will take time to master praying and the practicing will go better when begun at a pace that is not overwhelming. Although at other times in my life saying the daily Rosary would have been no trouble, at this time it is not the place to start. My prayer life is going to need to start again at a very slow pace.
From 5 Decades to 3 Words: Longer Isn't Always Better
When on Pentecost Sunday, our pastor suggested saying a prayer to the Holy Spirit, I knew I had found the perfect place to begin my prayer renewal. I shortened the prayer even further to “Come, Holy Spirit,” making it a simple prayer that I could say throughout any busy day.
Though very far from the goal of praying more like Saint John Paul the Great, this has been a much better place for me to start. In just a short while of practicing this small new discipline I have felt more at peace. I have also learned that I am not too busy or too tired to pray. I found a space in my day to devote to more concentrated prayer and renewed my commitment to a holy hour at our parish for a weekly Rosary. The Holy Spirit can do great things in us if we give Him a chance:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.
V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray. O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.