Prayer is about our relationship to God. Like any relationship, it requires time. Some of us are used to praying on the run, but our relationship with God cannot flourish unless we find time to be fully present to God: speaking and listening to one another, sharing silence or beauty, delight or sorrow. Intimacy grows when we invest in this kind of quality time – both in human relationships and in our relationship with God. There is truth in the familiar phrase, “If we’re too busy to pray, we’re too busy.”
We must pray for no less a reason than our life depends on it. Jesus promised to give us life, abundant life, yet we will only realize this promise when we live in sync with God on God’s terms, on God’s time. Talking about God and time is a paradox: Time is created by God, yet God is not subject to time. God is timeless, however we can only experience God in time. And, miraculously, we do! There are moments in our life when we actually get in touch with the timelessness of God. Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” God comes to us in time and space, in the now. This is why moments of prayer and worship are so important: In the midst of time, we actually perceive the Timeless that intersects the now. Prayer opens the space needed for that encounter.
You don’t need to live in a monastery to set aside time for prayer. In fact, the busier we are, the more we must not let our schedule get in the way of demarcating sacred time. Francis de Sales, the great 17th century spiritual director observed: “Half an hour’s listening is essential except when you are very busy. Then a full hour is needed.” The more the tyranny of the urgent demands your time, the more time it will take to stay centered in the ground of your being, to remain rooted in your relationship with God.
Try this: On a daily basis, set aside some time when you will be simply and fully present to God. There is an ancient monastic phrase, vacare Deo, which is about being empty for God, being at leisure or available to God.
In the morning: Many people find it most meaningful to vacare Deo first thing in the morning, perhaps even before getting out of bed. (Resist the urge to turn on your phone or check your email first!) Decide how much time you will spend each day, and stick with that time every day. You might light a candle, or start the day with a prayer of praise, gratitude, self-offering, or intercession. If you read from the Psalms, or make your way through a passage of Scripture, jot down a word or phrase that stands out to you, and keep it in your pocket throughout the day. You might find journaling a useful way to connect with God. Write a few sentences to capture your thoughts, fears, hopes, desires, thanksgivings.
At the midday: Claim some moments in the middle of the day to once again give God your full attention. This need not be elaborate. You might sit for a few minutes, consciously being still in the presence of God. Pray with your breathing. Breathe in what you need – hope, strength, joy, love – and breathe out anything that is clogging your soul – fear, despair, anger, temptation. Or if you wrote down a word or phrase in your morning meditation, return to it again. This midday connection will reawaken what you received from God in the morning. Enter again into that experience of grace in the middle of the day, whether you’re full of light and joy, or when you’re stressed or distracted.
In the evening: Save some time to reflect on the day that has passed. Claim and name your gratitude; acknowledge where you missed the mark; ask God to take whatever residue may be weighing on you, and then rest in peace.