Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Prayer: Everyone's Talking About It

In just the past couple of days, both Danielle and Michelle have posted on prayer and the challenges that parents face as they strive to nourish their prayer life while raising busy families. Sarah wrote about it a few weeks ago.

Both Michelle and Sarah focus on the Rosary in their discussions. I am not a regular pray-er of the Rosary, I must admit. I keep my finger Rosary in my pocket, not so much to use as a Rosary, but to call myself to prayer whenever I notice it in there.

As a Secular Franciscan I am expected to use the Liturgy of the Hours (specifically, Morning and Evening Prayer) daily. Did you know that priests are obligated under pain of sin to pray these prayers? The laity are not obligated in this way, but this is a particular form of prayer that Secular Franciscans are encouraged to practice. Certainly it is not the only one that we may use. I've been professed 5 years, and around the SFO longer than that, so I've been using the Liturgy of the Hours more or less faithfully for at least the past 7 years.

Morning Prayer is generally not too much of a problem, though I can find that if I don't get up and get started with prayers, I'll get started doing other things like packing lunches and being the Human Alarm Clock and making sure the kids get on the school bus and defrosting something for dinner and putting laundry into the washer....and before I know it, it's almost lunchtime and I have not yet greeted the Lord in prayer.

It's Evening Prayer that is my personal struggle. I had always done this at night, right before going to bed. Then, just before I was professed, the priest who was the Spiritual Assistant for our SFO fraternity taught us all that "Evening Prayer is not to be prayed at night. That's what Night Prayer is for. Evening Prayer should be prayed around sunset, or the dinner hour." Well, here's where the kind of perfectionism Michelle was talking about has reared its ugly head with me. Try finding a quiet place for 15 minutes in my house anytime between 4 and 8 PM. There's homework, and picking up Big Brother after his cross-country run, and dinner prep, and eating dinner, and cleaning up, and Middle Sister's basketball practice....and before I know it, it's bedtime and I wind up praying Evening Prayer at night.

And then I remember that a priest once mentioned, "If you're too busy to pray, you're too busy."

I know I have the choice here to either: beat myself up over this, find a way to pray Evening Prayer even a little earlier than I do now, or just let it ride and figure that it's better that I am using an opportunity to pray than wasting it. But more and more I'm thinking that it would be best to find a better way to make this happen. I'd like to make the effort to pray Evening Prayer earlier than I do, and maybe stay better awake in the process (for the record, lying in bed with 3 warm blankets and the Liturgy of the Hours is not conducive to alertness in prayer). Maybe after the dinner stuff is done, and everyone is settling in to their evening activities of reading, study, email, or games, I can disappear for 15 minutes. Because frankly, it would do me good to pay the "Magnificat" a bit more attention.

And maybe, if I sit in the nice clean kitchen for my prayer time, someone else in the house might find me there, and want to join in once in a while.

So my mission tonight, after dinner, is to make my kitchen table nice and clear, and dedicate the close of the day to the Lord. There might be background noise, but that's my life. I certainly don't want to wish away my noise-makers.

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