Do you feel that you don’t pray enough?
As modern-day Christians, we’ve become quite scrupulous about how much time we spend “in prayer” versus tending to our daily tasks. I’ve frequently heard catechists send folks on guilt trips: “How much time every day do you spend in prayer? Look at everything God has done for you!! How much are you doing for God??” Not enough, their tone of voice seems to say.
While it’s true that we tend to forget the Lord or take his gifts for granted, it’s also true that our Western culture has completely ripped apart what is sacred from what is profane, so that they are 100% separate. But it is that right?
When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me stories about a magic bubble. This wonderful, enormous, magical bubble would float into someone’s backyard and whisk them away on adventures. Mom’s stories opened wide the endless depths of my imagination.
Every so often, we’d visit Mimi, my mother’s grandmother. She was over ninety years old, but with a mind as sharp as ever. Mimi convinced me that every Irish grandmother is a master storyteller. Her stories transported us from her sitting room. Toward the end of each visit, she would scoot over to her piano keyboard and sing—frequently that resounding hymn, “How Great Thou Art”: Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands hath made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed…
On lazy afternoons, I used to walk around my neighborhood and observe everything around me. I’d marvel at the colorful veins in the rocks, and the patterns in the leaves. As the breeze would blow through and rustle the trees, I’d whisper a prayer, because I certainly knew that God was there.
That innocent sense—of magic, imagination, and seeing the sacred in everything—is one of the greatest gifts that I’ve received from my Celtic heritage, and a great gift that we as Church have received from the Celts. I’ve heard it said that a strong example of Irish spirituality is this: A simple woman in her home, churning butter, conversing with Our Lord and the saints.
“I spent eight hours at my job, an hour driving, six hours sleeping, two hours eating…”
“I spent an hour vacuuming, dusting, and washing, another hour mopping, and an hour laundering.”
Why do we assume that God is not pleased with our everyday activities? That God is not present in these mundane moments? Or that God does not delight in our care for our bodies, our families, and our homes? Why do we act as if prayer is always a completely separate activity that God demands from us? The truth is: God is pleased with you. God delights in your daily chores. God is present there. Saint Patrick said, “Our God is the God of all things.” He is as assuredly the God of St. Peter’s Basilica as he is the God of your dirty dishes, the God of your car keys, and the God of a good night’s sleep.
Throughout Scripture, God insists, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6).
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obedience to the LORD’s command? Obedience is better than sacrifice, to listen, better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)
“You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
“…Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
“…Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
Yes, it is good and right to set aside time to give God the worship he rightly deserves. Yet at the same time, the number of minutes that we spend reciting prayers or reading spiritual books pales in comparison to the amount of time God desires that we spend united with him in everyday moments.
Perhaps rather than asking ourselves, “How many times today did I say my prayers?” we should ask, “How many times today was my heart open to God and neighbor? How did I seek to listen to God, rather than the voice of temptation? How did I encounter God today? When did I give God thanks?”
Remember our God’s omnipresence. Enter into his delight with you. Marvel wide-eyed at his gifts. Seek God, and live as his beloved child. This is Christian prayer.
For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit […] all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. […] And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives. – Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 901
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