I went to Manhattan yesterday to get a wisdom tooth pulled. Thankfully the dentist was so adroit I was left with an hour or two of leisure to snap pictures of the city and Grand Central as I waited for the train.
As I snapped shots here and there I couldn’t help but observe the energy of the city. I kept thinking to myself, “No wonder it is so hard to stop and pray.” On the train ride home I put down the camera and picked up the pen to jot down a few notes–both to remind myself and to help others–on how to pray amid our busy life.
Here are some of my reflections with a few of my favorite iPhone pictures from my trip to the city.
We are busy. There is no way around that, but we can be busy in an ordered way. So the first way to find time to pray is to order our life. Once there’s order, any friction between prayer, on the one hand, and work and relationships on the other, ceases to be a problem. Everything has it’s place and God should occupy the first. When our priorities are in order our duties fit smoothly together and actually contribute to the good of the other. In my own life, for example, I’ve noticed that when I don’t pray I find it much more difficult to be patient.
Nonetheless, no matter how well ordered and disciplined our life is, it is impossible to avoid pressure and emergencies, which are an added difficulty to praying well. What to do then?
We can take heart in two realities. First, most emergencies are the exception and not the rule, and so don’t pose a serious threat to our overall prayer life, since rarely does an emergency endure forever. Second, if we’ve already established a properly ordered life, then we are like the man who built his house on rock, and have laid the structure to endure the tempest when it does arrive.
For many of us, however, the real problem isn’t undo pressures or emergencies, but that we prefer using some of the time that could be dedicated to prayer to idleness, to television, or the like. That, coupled with insufficient diet and sleep, does more to keep one from praying than all the busyness and emergencies in the world. It leaves us more tired and less motivated. If we are serious about loving the Lord, we need to prefer Him to these time wasters. “You must go away and rest for a while.”
To pray well we need to carve out time in our daily lives to actually pray–to go away with the Lord and rest in him. This is not a one time decision. Life often spirals away from our control and we need to begin our effort again, much like one who wants to keep a work out routine needs to struggle to keep it going. There are four great ways of getting in touch with Him: prayer, the sacraments, reading, and the doing of God’s will. If we make the effort, or as Saint Theresa of Jesus put it, “Have a determined determination to pray”, all the grace of a relationship with Christ is available to us.
Speaking of going away, I will be doing my annual spiritual exercises starting this Friday. Please pray for me while I am resting in the Lord for a week. God bless!