A man prays during a Spanish-language Mass at St. Anne Church in Brentwood, N.Y. How does a busy person find time for spiritual growth? If we make time for prayer first, everything else will fit. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

A man prays during a Spanish-language Mass at St. Anne Church in Brentwood, N.Y. How does a busy person find time for spiritual growth? If we make time for prayer first, everything else will fit. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

 

How does a busy person find time for spiritual growth?

Sometimes, we feel like a perpetual motion machine — kids, sports, jobs, day care, house care, family obligations — the list goes on.

It’s a problem we’ve all faced. We’re exhausted, we’re stressed, we’re overbooked. Our schedules are hectic and, if we’re parents, we’re at the heart of it all, the engineer who makes it all run smoothly.

But underneath it all, do you sense a nagging desire for spiritual growth? God is inviting us. We want to somehow heed the injunction of Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God!”

Here are a few suggestions, mostly gleaned by trial and error.

First, don’t beat yourself up. Feeling guilty about not praying is probably a surefire way to avoid God. Instead, cultivate gratitude. Be aware of all each day for which you are grateful to God, beginning with the very life breath within you.

The medieval theologian Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Make a habit of little miniprayers of gratitude throughout the day.

Second, try to incorporate prayer into the pauses of your life. A long red light? A checkout line that seems to be unmoving? Waiting in the school parking lot for your child? Take a deep breath and be present to God.

However, if you desire to strengthen your spiritual life, at some point you need to set aside time specifically for prayer. I’ve found the early morning to be the best time for me. If everyone else in the house is still asleep, it’s best.

But if a child or a spouse sees you sitting with Scripture or a lighted candle, you may feel interrupted but you’ve also just given great witness.

Don’t feel you ever “have enough time” to pray?

A pastor friend of mine used to repeat a homily yearly, but it always challenged me.

Father Dan would take a large, clear glass jar, three quarters filled with rice, and try to add golf balls to fill the jar. He could never get all the golf balls in. Next, he would empty the jar and put the golf balls in first. Then he poured the same amount of rice over the golf balls and everything fit, the rice filling the curves and crannies around the golf balls.

The moral of his homily? If we make time for prayer first, everything else will fit. The important thing is to set a specific time and do your best to keep it. If you, like me, have ever said, “I’ll pray later,” you’ve probably found that “later” doesn’t materialize.

Making prayer a habit will eventually bear great fruit.

Another technique is to evaluate honestly the time you spend with screens, be it an hour on Facebook or an evening spent in front of the television. Certainly some of that time could be devoted to silence and prayer, if we’re intentional.

Sometimes we really need help settling into a quiet meditation. There are many online aids for this. Www.sacredspace.ie, a joint apostolate of the Irish Jesuits and Loyola Press, provides daily guided prayer used by people all over the world. You choose the amount of time you give.

Creighton University provides daily reflections as well as other seasonal and retreat guidance at http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/online.html.

Another great daily source is www.ignatianspirituality.com.

Most of these resources can be emailed to you daily.

If you prefer something you can hold in your hand, there are many booklets available, like “Living Faith,” which is sponsored by the Augustinians of the Assumption. This booklet provides the daily readings and a short meditation to help foster your own time with God. Check with your parish for other suggestions.

Think of this journey not as rigid obligation, but as an exciting invitation. God has great plans for you in 2017.

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Caldarola is a freelance writer and a columnist for Catholic News Service.