Praying When We’re Busy (And We’re All Busy) 21

Fr Jason Smith

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.

I don’t have time to draw anymore but with an iPhone and a few filters I can look out at the world as an artist again!

Here are some of my reflections with a few of my favorite iPhone pictures from my trip to the city.

If I had a penny for every time  I felt or someone told me they’re to busy to pray, I’d never have to ask for a second collection at church.

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.

When everything in our life has it’s proper place we know when we need to stop one thing and move on to the other.

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?

Emergencies and pressure are unavoidable, but we can face them when we are properly grounded.

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.

The busyness of our life should be grounded upon the rock of our faith.

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.”

Since the spiritual life is a partnership with Jesus, and also a search for Jesus, no one need have any fear of being rejected by him.

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!

Shoot for the heights. All the possibilities of the spiritual life are available to us if we make the effort.


  1. This is a most apropos post. I am working on increasing my prayer time and deepening it as well. Please do tell Fr. Jason to take it easy after having his tooth pulled. Believe me I need no reminders on how much pain a tooth can cause. You will both be in my thoughts and prayers as you do spiritual exercises this week. God Bless.

    • Thanks, Teresa! I’ll still be around, keeping busy and trying to put some of these prayer practices in to practice. Fr Jason really appreciates your prayers, and I do to. And be assured that I will be praying for you and Kevin. God bless!

  2. Beautiful imagery. The grittiness and double exposures are all invitations to meditate both on the images and the messages between the pixels. Prayers for Fr. Jason — a silent retreat following a pulled tooth? Will he pack a Post-It with “ow” written on it for when the aspirin wears off?

    • Lol! I think he’s allowed to say “ow,” but just once a day and only to his spiritual director. Speaking of beautiful imagery, great show on the Interface’s last couple of posts. Love the humming birds and the walking stick (and grapes and persimmons, YUM!). God bless!

  3. I loved this post, and the pictures were great.
    There is nothing so valuable in life as making time for prayer and reflection. The steadiness and priority of it seems to matter even more to me than the length of time I have to devote to it. Once that habit is there, I have found it easy to grab moments of gratitude and praise during the day, randomly and spontaneously. Two things that I have found helpful is to always pause for a short “grace before meals”. Visual reminders help me, too. On my “slide show desktop” I include a holy image. I do this also on a digital photo frame that I have at home. If they were all to be prayerful images, my brain would tune them out in its busy mode, but when the Face of Jesus suddenly pops up on the screen for a few seconds, it catches my attention and brings me back around to that moment of thanksgiving and praise. It’s a reminder of who I am supposed to be, which I can forget in the midst of stress and obligations.

    • All the little things add up, don’t they. It’s like telling the Jesus who gently knocks on the door, “Please! For you, the door is always ajar. Just come on in and and join me anytime. You are always welcome. And if the door’s ever shut for any reason, just knock louder and I will know that it’s you! I’ll come running and let you in. I always want you to be a part of my life! And thank you, Jesus, for being a part of my life.” In other words, friendship.

  4. Thank you for the beautiful words on praying and reflection. I will keep you in my prayers during your spiritual exercises. God bless you!

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