Taking Advantage of the Little Moments: Finding Time to Pray

If you have ever tried to create a prayer life when you have little ones underfoot you know that it can be nearly impossible on some days. St. Teresa of Avila once said that God moves among the pots and pans… and many years ago I adopted the idea of offering the things I do through the day as a prayer to God. While I am cooking, while I am reading to my kids, or while I am driving someone to work I know that doing things with love can be a prayer to God if only I offer it to Him.

But I also crave time where I can simply sit quietly with God to read my bible and pray. It’s difficult to find that time when there is constantly someone who needs you. Over the years I have found that in addition to reading my bible and praying spontaneously, I really enjoy structured prayer. One of the ways I have tried is to incorporate this into my life is through praying the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) which helps to sanctify the day through praying specific prayers at specific hours. It is a difficult practice to establish even when you don’t have children, but with children it has been nearly impossible. Still, occasionally I give it a try again.

Today as I attempted the morning prayers it went something like this…

Psalm 84:1-5, 8-11
Antiphon: O God, look upon the face of your appointed.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
For the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.

{Interruption by Leo} “Mama, did you know that when we were pwaying yesterday with the Carowine’s Barbie that Jake peed in my boot? Weally, he did. I fink you should spank him.” (I shook my head and offered up a little prayer for patience) “Mama… hey, Mama, did you hear me? I said dat Jake PEED in my chicken boot! Mama, he PEED in my chicken boot! While we were pwaying. IN MY BOOT!” I told him that I would deal with it in a little while. He ran off and I continued with the rest of the Psalm.

O Lord of hosts, my Ruler and my God,
at your altars even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young.

{Interruption by Leo again} “Mama, hey, what are you doing? Are you doing your homework?” Me, “No, I am trying to pray.” Leo, “Dat don’t wook wike pwaying to me. It wooks wike you are reading and doing homework. Are we going to pway the wosary tonight?” Me, “Yes, we will pray together before bed. Can I have a little time to myself right now to finish this?” Leo, “Sure!”

Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highway to Zion.

{Interruption by Anna} “Hey Mama, did you know that Jake peed in Leo’s chicken boot yesterday?” Me, “Yes, I have already had this conversation with Leo.” In walks Caroline, Jake, and Madison. Anna, “I think you should talk to Jake about it now.” Jake tries to sneak out of the room. Me, “Jake, wait a minute. Did you pee in Leo’s boot?” Jake nods his head slowly and looks at the floor. Me, “Why in the world would you do that? Is that the place you are supposed to pee? That is very gross?” Jake, “I don’t know; I just needed to go to the bathroom.” Me, “Next time you need to pee in the toilet. I better not catch you peeing in anything other than the toilet. Do you hear?” Jake still looking at the ground, “Yes, Ma’am.” Me, “Ok, can y’all please go for just a little bit so I can finish this?” There was much sighing and gnashing of teeth as they left my room.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
{Crying starts in the other room}
O God of Jacob, hear!
Behold our shield, O God;
look upon the face of your anointed!

For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.

{Knocking on my bedroom door followed by a voice muffled in the crack, “Mama, can we play on the video game?” Me, “Not right now. Chores need to be done and you need to wait until after lunch.” “Ah, man! Darn!”}
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
{I laughed a little at this line right about then… the irony was not lost on me!}
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Antiphon: O God, look upon the face of your appointed.

Psalm one done! Only six more prayers to go in the Morning Prayers! They all went about this way…

Creating a Workable Prayer Life

So what are we supposed to do when we want to cultivate a deep and meaningful prayer life but we either can’t carve out that quiet time or we are constantly interrupted when we do?

It’s important to remember that our vocations will guide us in how and when we pray. As a busy homeschooling mother to many children I have a really hard time finding large chunks of quiet time throughout the day to pray the Divine Office. No matter how hard I try I can’t be like the Desert Fathers who were able to concentrate all their time and thoughts on God through prayer, singing, fasting, and helping others. But while those large chunks of time elude me, I can turn any moment in my day into prayer just as St. Teresa said. I can find God in the daily duties of my life. From cooking to teaching to breaking up fights to folding my husband clothes- everything I do can be a prayer. I may not be able to ever get through a single sitting of the Divine Office without interruption (or even remember to pray it!), but I can always find ways to pray.

God doesn’t ask us to do more than we are able. He simply asks that we talk to Him- to ask Him to share in our lives and that we bring Him our joys, our sorrows, our problems, and our needs. The way we do this will be dependent on our circumstances. He wants to meet us where we are at in life. If we are able to set aside long periods of time to sit and talk that is amazing; but if we talk to Him while we are cleaning up crayon off the wall {again} then He is happy that we are engaging in a relationship with Him. We have to remember that our prayer life will be different from everyone else’s prayer life because our relationship with God is different.

Be open to God’s calling to a meaningful prayer life. Know that it may not look like what you have in mind (or desire!) or what others are doing. God doesn’t simply answer the prayers of those who sit for hours at a time praying; He also answers the prayers of those who simply whisper a prayer as they go about their day. As you create a prayer life that works for you, don’t compare your prayer life to others and do trust that God will be there listening and responding to you no matter what your prayer life looks like.

Finally, remember that prayer is both talking and listening. Be sure to listen for God’s prompting on your heart. Sometimes He speaks the loudest in the middle of a busy day when we are overwhelmed and not sure we can get through one more moment. If we can quiet our souls we will hear Him in the laughter (and even in the tears) of our children, in the music on the radio as we travel to our next appointment, in the wind as it gently rustles the wind chimes hanging outside the window while the kids are playing, or in the multitude of sounds and experiences we have throughout each day. This doesn’t just apply to the busy mama… it applies to all of us.

We may not all have hours on end to offer to God in contemplative, focused prayer but we all have moments throughout the day that we can offer to Him. Every moment can be a God moment- the question now is will we offer these moments to Him in prayer?

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