Edito's Note: Today we bring you a piece from Kyle Albert! We would suggest you check him out on Twitter @KyleAlbert95 and on the non-Twitter part of the internet at http://tagalongk.com!
Do you find yourself wishing you had more time to pray? Do you ever say to yourself "I know I should make time to strengthen my relationship with God, but I just can't find the time"? Or, maybe you don't even have time to think these things explicitly, to contemplate the fact that you aren’t praying enough. If you are like me, every day is a whirlwind of meetings, phone calls, task list items, and kids activities. If that’s a good description of your life, then you probably often realize you've gone through your whole week without praying. I know, I know ... lots of people say "How are those other things more important than praying? What is wrong with you?", but you won't get such finger-wagging from me. I get it … I know how busy you are. My family and I live in Northern Virginia, part of the Washington DC metro area, and life here with two young kids is anything but laid back. The cost of living is astronomically high, so unless one person makes a very, very good salary, both mom and dad are going to have to work. The traffic is terrible, which makes getting around take up a big chunk of your day. The kids go to Catholic school, so no school bus for us. They are both involved in sports and other extra-curricular activities, then there are friends birthday parties, school events . . . it gets crazy. If it isn't on my calendar or on my task list, it doesn't happen. It can be hard to pause for prayer when you feel like you are running around with your hair on fire.
It gets even harder when we have some idealized, story book vision of what praying means. If you think you've got to set aside 30 minutes to an hour for prayer, it is going to seem impossible to find the time. I often find myself falling into this trap, and as a result, I push off prayer, hoping I'll get to it at some point. But then “some point” comes only when we get to Mass on Sunday. But I often have this nagging feeling that once a week on Sunday just isn’t enough.
A few months ago, I had a breakthrough realization when it came to prayer, and I learned I was approaching it all wrong. I was listening to an episode of a podcast called Startups For The Rest Of Us and one of the hosts interviewed Chris Bailey, author of The Productivity Project. I was fascinated by this guy -- he took a year to experiment on himself, trying all the different productivity techniques he could find to try to determine which ones work the best, and which ones don’t seem to work at all. One of the things he tried was meditation (spoiler alert: he says it helps you be more productive). But the thing that really grabbed me was that he specifically addressed this issue of not feeling like you have time to set aside in your day for something like meditation. He points out that when you are trying to build a habit, like getting more exercise, or meditation (or prayer), you have to make it easy to get started. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good -- good is WAY better than not at all!
His tip was this -- if you are struggling to find the time, just find a couple of minutes each day where you do it. Everybody can spare a couple of minutes, right? Do it right after you drive to work. Park your car, but don't jump out and go straight in to work. Turn your engine off and sit there, in silence, for just a few minutes, and focus on your breathing. Do that every day, and not only will you find yourself having more focus during the day, but you will quickly form a new habit. It turns out this is great advice for prayer as well.
Maybe you can't go to your parish and pray for 20 or 30 minutes each day, but guess what -- you don't have to. Take a few minutes each morning to have a conversation with God. Maybe you do it when you first wake up. Maybe you do it after you drop the kids off at school. Maybe you do it in your car once you have gotten to work. But it only takes a few minutes. Not sure what to pray about? Say the Lords Prayer. Say a Hail Mary. But in addition, make sure you aren't the only one talking. Take a minute or two to be quiet, and just listen. Open yourself up to God and allow yourself to be still and listen for him. We read in 1 Kings chapter 19 that God spoke to Elijah in a whisper. Make sure you take a few minutes each day to listen for that whisper.
St. John Chrysostom wrote “Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy.” Believe me, if your life is as crazy as mine, then daily prayer is not a nice to have … it is something we must make time for. Otherwise, your hair being on fire might be the least of your worries.