How to Build in Time to Pray

For me, the end of August means back to school and a stricter schedule than in summer. While I work through the summer, the end of August means resuming classes, meeting teachers and colleagues, and the rest of my family’s schedule is picking up speed too. I will be doing office hours with students and trying to fit into the gym.

All of these are important ways of finding God. We are invited to be contemplative in action and I find God in teaching, writing and in dealing with students, colleagues, family and friends. As I pray the exam daily – even though the truth is that I’m not always as consistent as I should be – I will notice places where God’s presence intrudes into these everyday moments. Perhaps I’m inspired by something new that an international student teaches me on a topic of social justice from a different cultural perspective. I may feel that God is at work in this mutual learning. Or maybe it’s a funny story a colleague tells me in the hallway, and the feeling of belonging to a community is a moment when I know God is there. I imagine that Jesus also loved to enjoy the everyday life of being human.

But I also find that my general well-being suffers when I don’t have time to be thoughtful and less actively centered. After all, life also has its stresses: an unusually high number of grades in addition to a full daily routine or our family car that has mechanical problems for the umpteenth time. I need this solo time, just between God and me, nobody else. Even Jesus went to pray alone. For example, he did this both before and after the miracle of the loaves and fish when he fed 5,000 people (Mark 6: 30–46). If Jesus needed some time to pray and rest, maybe I did too.

Okay, not “maybe”. I need reflective moments in order to feel whole and to know God as I long to know God.

So when I look at my fall schedule and set up meetings and office hours, I will also try to allow time for prayer and some slower, quieter moments of reflection. Here are some practices each of us could choose from in building the time to pray:

  • Wake up a little earlier to pray. I like to either sit outside on my back porch or where I can see the great outdoors.
  • Hearing a song or hymn that brings me closer to God to start my day.
  • Taking a walk at noon one day instead of going to the gym and looking for God in nature (birds, flowers, turtles sunbathing by a pond).
  • Pause between work sessions, close your eyes, and breathe at my desk for a few minutes. I could imagine breathing in God’s love and power and breathing out all of my stress. Or maybe I just breathe and find God in silence.
  • Go to a weekday mass.
  • I want to thank God for my day so far just before I have lunch.
  • Put away screens, like my cell phone, a few minutes beforehand in order to say the exam or the night prayer of the Divine Office.
  • Take half a day or retreat once a month with no work or family except to focus on God: walking, praying, or sitting with a cup of tea and resting in God’s presence. Sometimes God is on a good nap.
  • Once a month, meet with a group of friends – perhaps with a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers – to share where God has been in our lives.

I don’t do all of these things, but I know that I want to choose some of them when fall starts. These little moments help me to be grounded and hopefully also to be more loving in my interactions during the social moments.

How do you find ways to pray or center yourself in the middle of a busy schedule?

Photo by Farzad Mohamadi on Unsplash.

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