The little way to pray all day, even if you have no time to spare!

There is a saying, dubiously attributed to St. Francis de Sales but it sounds more like Venerable Fulton Sheen to me: “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer every day, except when we are busy — then we need an hour.”

It’s a clever phrase — and true, too. When parenthood and career kept me at my busiest, I was somehow managing to spend more time in prayer at my little oratory than ever before or since. I cannot explain how — perhaps there is some strange metaphysical phenomenon of time touching timelessness and becoming more flexible, shrinking or expanding as needed, as we commingle our hearts, minds and spirits with the Triune reality that is eternal.

All I know is that at a point when life seemed to leave me without a spare minute, prayer was happening and nothing was left undone.

Overcoming the daunting task of finding time for prayer

For many the idea of “finding time for real prayer” seems daunting as they imagine adding an hour to their already crammed schedules and then begin to consider all the things they will “need” to really get going: a prayer corner, with icons and statues and Bibles and breviaries. They close their eyes and imagine such a space, with candles lit and rosary at the ready. Then a kid screams, a phone rings or the dog starts trying to eat the Amazon delivery guy through the door, and the image shatters and fades away — another good intention deemed unworkable.

Nice as an oratory is to have, it’s not necessary. All we need is a mind and spirit willing to be opened to the slightest prompting to prayer (which is an invitation from heaven) and a heart ready to give itself over to the moment. Those little God-ward nudges go on all day long, and if we are attentive to them — responding with prayer as soon as they are perceived — we very soon find ourselves praying quite a lot as we fashion ourselves into channels through which God’s purposes may travel.

Finding prayer prompts in everyday moments

When I see my clock flashing repeated numbers, I stop what I am doing and make prayers of thanksgiving, until the time changes.

So, if the clock reads 10:10 or 11:11 (you get the idea) I take it as a prompt to give thanks for little things: At 12:12, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, thank you for my life; thank you that we are healthy; thank you that we are employed.” At 1:11, “St. Michael, thank you that the house did not flood last night.” And 3:33, of course, has me offering thanks to the Holy Trinity for being such an instructive mystery in my life.

Hey, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. It’s all prayer and little prayers of thanksgiving have a way of making you grateful. And gratitude, after all, is the seed of joy.

Short and simple prayers throughout the day

Prayer need not be lengthy to be efficacious; it needs only to be worked — the lines left open, so to speak, so the Holy Spirit can move. The first prayer of the day can be a simple line or two: “I thank you, Lord, for by your cross and resurrection, you have set me free. Through you may I be a blessing to others this day!”

My favorite prayer on rising comes from the opening to St. Patrick’s Breastplate: “I arise today through a mighty strength: an invocation of the Trinity, through a belief in the Threeness, a confession of the Oneness of the Creator of Creation.” Lately, I find myself repeating those words at odd or anxious moments, and they are powerfully grounding.

Throughout the day, prayer comes and goes, flowing through the conduits we become once we have learned to recognize when we are being nudged into prayer and respond.

Responding to prompts for prayer

Almost anything can be a prompting to prayer: A siren in the distance can invite a sign of the cross and a quick, “Lord, the ones you love need your help!” The pinch of a new shoe can bring a prayer for those who cannot walk. A windchime can draw us into the Angelus.

In this Year of Prayer, it is good to discover all the ways God invites us to work with him as we go about our day, “continuing instant in prayer” (Rom 12:12).

This post The little way to pray all day, even if you have no time to spare! appeared on Our Sunday Visitor.

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