Monday, March 10, 2014

Prayer With an Open Door Policy (or Small Ways for Busy Moms to Pray Throughout the Day)

Pray without ceasing.
1 Thessalonians 5:17

When you pray, go into your room and shut the door, 
and pray to your Father who is in secret.
Matthew 6:6

Lately I've been trying to refresh my prayer life, to pray without ceasing.  But, go into your room and shut the door???  Do you have any idea what can happen in the moment's time it takes for a mother to go into her room and shut the door? The most likely outcome of the mother-going-into-her-room-and-shutting-the-door scenario is that the police arrive very soon afterward presumably because the neighbors called when they witnessed your two-year- old exit your home through the clothes dryer vent and head down the block with very few clothes on (however she had a ukulele strapped to her back, a coonskin cap on her head, and a kitchen whisk in hand...) You get the idea.  I know Jesus loved the little children, but he didn't have any of his own.  Clearly.  I think it very likely that when Christ gave these instructions on prayer it was one of those times when he spoke before thinking.*  Well, he at least wasn't thinking through the implications it would have on a mother's life. 
But anyway, here we have a busy mother who wants to refresh her prayer life, to "pray without ceasing" so as to move throughout the day more fully in the presence of God. My life these days doesn't allow for extended silent meditation, thought-provoking philosophical and spiritual reading, uninterrupted hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, or 20-decade rosaries.  (tip: If you long for the prayer life of the monastics, don't have children.) The closed-door prayer marathon isn't realistic, but I realistically can't get through my day without His grace.  So I'm keeping it simple and am trusting that my simple prayers will yield graces sufficient for my vocation.  The door is open for Him to work.  Perhaps you're busy also, but like me, need the strength, focus, and grace of  "prayer without ceasing."  Here's what I've been focusing on... 

Small Ways for This Busy Mom to Pray Throughout the Day:
(no closed doors here, but some of it is secret)

Make a Morning Offering.  It is short.  It is simple. It is my effort to order the rest of the day - to acknowledge the One from whom all good things come and to commit all my best efforts (which are really quite weak) to His service and for His glory.  Said offering is (sadly) often promptly forgotten once my feet hit the floor and I stumble downstairs with only one true thought on my mind.  Coffee.

Read Scripture each morning.  But not a lot of it, lest I retain nothing. (I love the New Testament published by Scepter Publishers that divides the entire New Testament up into approximately 5-minute bits so that you can read it through two times in a year.)  I've been trying to find something in the passage to "take with me" as I go through the day - I'll write it on a sticky note and hang it in the kitchen to re-read and re-focus as the day wears on.  I have to write it down, because I won't remember it throughout the day no matter how convicted I was by it in the morning.  Quiet morning convictions are often lost in the busyness, noise, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches of the day.    

Aspirations (often in the form of prayers in emergency situations).  This form of prayer has been so fruitful for me lately, and I believe has prevented many a child-induced spiritual malfunction of my soul.  Let me explain.  There are three prayers I come back to over and over again throughout the day to maintain a calm and pleasant disposition, to beg forgiveness, and to order my efforts:  

For the things that grate on my nerves or try my patience - sibling squabbles, interruptions, pestering, irresponsibility, an entire canister of oatmeal spilled on the floor ceiling fan??? - I toss a Hail Mary heavenward.  It's become my alternative to yelling.  (Well, not all the time.  But that's the idea, anyway...)  I usually don't even get to the end of the prayer before the next big distraction hits.  But the point is I'm not below groveling before Our Lady and begging Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces, to bestow upon me an iota of the Grace with which she was blessed.  Hail Mary, full of grace... would you please ask your Son to give me an extra helping of the same - I long to be more like you and to react graciously and to conduct myself grace-fully in the midst of this blessed mess.  (This is the part that's secret since the child who's expecting a tirade from me, instead sees me starring at him kind of distracted and glassy-eyed.  Little does he know I'm trying to get through as much of a Hail Mary as I can before I respond to him with something that's in between "full of grace" and "tirade.")  

For the times when I slip up and yell at a child, or roll my eyes at the customer "service" I receive at the store, or speak to me husband with an "I'm right, you're wrong at work at all day so you have no idea" attitude, or scoff at... well, any number of ridiculous things - I quickly pray, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.  And there's no lack of evidence which would suggest that I say this one a lot :)  

And for the times when I start to feel burdened and victimized by the very life that I chose (how un-explainable and crazy is that???) - I offer this aspiration over and over and over: All for the greater glory of God.  Laundry and dishes and meals and wiping runny noses, trips to the playground and library and dentist and doctor, reading Harold and the Purple Crayon for the fortieth time, cuddling when I wish I had more personal space, cleaning when I'd rather be crocheting, serving when I'd rather be sleeping - they are the "small realities" that St. Josemaria Escriva was speaking about when he wrote, "the holiness that our Lord demands of you is to be achieved by carrying out with love of God your work and your daily duties, and these will almost always consist of small realities."  (I wrote a little more about this here)  I cheerfully choose these small realities - loving my husband, raising my children, keeping my home.  In doing so, I am radiating Christ and serving the God who saw fit to bless me with this particular life for my own good and for His glory.  

On a good day I'm able to do some spiritual reading during the kids' afternoon nap/quiet time.  My favorite are the meditations from In Conversation With God, (also from Scepter) which follow the Liturgical Year.  Or I manage to fit in a Rosary, or part of one, while I'm exercising or nursing.  For me, the key to increasing the chances that I'll accomplish either one of these is to not make it a priority.  The minute I say, I will say a Rosary every day or I will definitely do spiritual reading at nap time today, is the minute that I fail at that portion of my prayer life.  I know that committing to something and sticking with it is important, and I am not suggesting we make no set commitment to personal prayer.  I just know that for some reason I am much more likely to "sneak" these things into my day when the opportunity arises, and I'm much more likely to be sidetracked and defeated when I've made them non-negotiable, set-in-stone items on my prayer-to-do list.  

Finally, if I'm not too tired at the end of the day - worn thin from attempting to remedy my own shortcomings as well as those of my children from dawn to dusk (and then some, if bedtime goes badly) and/or staying up too late writing long-winded blog posts such as this - I do my best to offer a sincere prayer of thanksgiving.  "Every good and perfect gift comes from You.  I am so unworthy of the many you have bestowed on me.  I'm forever grateful.  And I'm going to bed now, so I'll catch you again tomorrow, Lord.   I'll be here all day, and I'll leave the door open :)  Amen." 

*  Tongue in cheek ;)

(One final prayer tip - My friend, Mary, whose lovely blog is Better Than Eden, is leading a Novena for husbands.  It begins tomorrow and concludes on the Feast of St. Joseph.  Won't you join Mary, many others, and me in praying for the most important man in your life?  Mary has all the Novena info, so click on over there.  All the prep work is done for you!  It's an easy way to add a little extra to your prayer life and a big way to support your husband!)


  1. Thanks for joining in! I'm so happy that so many people are interested and will be praying together! All these ideas are awesome. I especially like the aspirations. I need to be better at doing them thoughtfully.

  2. Just what I needed to hear (read!)!

    (I don't think I've commented before, but started reading your blog here and there on a reader app, found it when someone recommended you elsewhere, so hi!)

    Anyway, back to the point.. I starred and re-read this, having given up yelling at the kiddos for Lent (and beyond hopefully of course!) and this seems like an entirely worthwhile strategy.. At the very least, I'll be praying the Hail Marys of a couple if rosaries a day ;)

    Anyway, just wanted to tell you good call and thanks for the ideas!! Today I'd been thinking that each day had been progressively worse since Ash Wednesday, either my tolerance or the kids' behavior, frustrating like crazy. I'd been trying a mini Memorare novena each morning, something I think Mother Teresa suggested, but I wasn't able to keep much momentum going past 9 am, tells you how much I have to work on, eh?

    Anywayyyyy, just hi and thanks and great ideas


    1. Maria, Welcome! I'm glad you liked the post. I love your idea of using the Memorare as a daily prayer! I'd never thought of that. Thanks for the idea and thanks for stopping by and commenting! God bless you and your Lenten efforts! -Theresa

  3. I don't think I said 'anyway' enough times, I'll fix that: anyway, anyway, anyway, anyway, anyway, anywayanywayanywayanyway! ;]


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