Finding Time to Pray
My daily prayer time is often a moving target. Depending on what the day has in store for me, I could find myself praying at any number of junctures during the day. My goal is to spend about half an hour when I first wake up, 15 minutes or so praying the Rosary with Benedict during our morning play time, meditation for a few minutes at noon, the Divine Mercy Chaplet during the 3 o'clock hour, and finally prayers with my family before bed. It's a pretty rigorous plan, that's for sure, and one that's proven elusive. Yet, when I add the time up, it ends up being about an hour during the day, during which I'll have 14 waking hours. Considering how much time is wasted throughout the day, it's a very reasonable plan. Yet, even with the best laid plan, it's still a daily challenge to actually do it.
I think that the best approach to prayer, and making sure that you have a robust and fulfilling prayer life, is to use creative scheduling. For whatever reason, we've adopted a mindset that prayer must look, sound, and feel a particular way in the same way that Catholic Radio hosts all sound the same on air. Prayer is personal, it's intimate, and it's a relationship. Not all relationships are the same, so why should your prayer life be? Certainly the Church offers a wide range of support for how to pray, but those should be considered primers to get the conversation going. Along with the beautiful prayers that have been shared with us as aids to our relationship, there should also be a measure of frank conversation with God.
Creative scheduling is the term that I use for making ordinary things holy. It's a total rethinking of what prayer looks like and when it can happen. Creative scheduling has me praying while doing very ordinary things during the day, such as driving, mowing the lawn, exercising, or even making the bed. Like St. Therese's "Little Way," creative scheduling has me pray while doing ordinary or simple tasks and, in that way, makes them holy. I still struggle with focus, but my full attention is not a prerequisite for good prayer, only my good efforts.
Another strategy is to merge current time blocks in your day. If you plan to pray in the morning and in the evening, accomplishing neither, consolidate those two times into one. Get really good at praying once during the day and then eventually split them back up. If you have time during the day that's scheduled as free play with your kids, add some prayer to that time. When you're about to fall asleep, use some of your pillow talk time with your wife for prayer. This is about optimizing your schedule and finding new, different, and creative ways, places, and times for prayer.
Prayer is talking to a friend. Don't overthink prayer time. Strike up a conversation and just say what's on your mind and in your heart. I'll admit, when I started conversational prayer, I did it privately because it was awkward. My prayer was full of weak English and awkward phrases. It was all new and that was ok. After some time, and practice, I grew comfortable enough to pray conversationally out loud with Alison. Give this form of prayer a try, and give yourself some grace when you do it.
The time of understanding prayer as having only one dynamic is over. Prayer is multifaceted, it's diverse, and like the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it comes in many forms. Take this Easter season to continue the good work you began in Lent and grow in your relationship with God through regular prayer.