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The best way to make time for prayer when you’re really busy

Ben White I Unsplash

Even if it’s sitting in the car for a few minutes before you get out, it counts.

It’s easy to start playing the Busy Parent Card. You know the one: You read an article about ways to better connect or deepen your relationship with God and say, “Yeah, well, glad that works for other people, but no way that works for me! I’ve got kids! I’ve got work to do! I’ve got people to feed and pick up after!”

Becky Eldredge, a mom of three, spiritual director, and the author of Busy Lives and Restless Souls. understands all too well what we’re up against, but still says there are practices that work right into our schedules — even the “toughies” like silence and dedicated time for prayer.

In fact, as someone who gets up long before her family to spend time in prayer, Becky says we can all do it to. It’s a matter, she says, of “setting aside a daily time for prayer that you honor and schedule on your calendar like you would any other appointment.”

“This daily time of being with God grounds your day in silence and stillness with God,” Becky says. “The silence of our home helps me still and quiet myself to just be with God and hear God’s voice. It reminds me of Psalm 46:6, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’”

But Becky notes that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Becky says she lives by the motto of her priest-friend: “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.”

“It is easy for life’s responsibilities and roles to get in the way of our prayer lives,” Becky says. At times, we can say “yes” to a lot of things that we put as precedence over our relationship with God. Being intentional and scheduling time with God on our calendars and honoring this time like we would any appointment helps keep this a priority in our life.”

“At the same time,” Becky cautions, “we have to be gentle with ourselves when life calls us to care for children, for aging family members, or for our own health. During those times, we might not be able to honor our set prayer period because our call is to show love to those around us at that time. We can still lean on God and turn to God at anytime because we carry an ‘inner chapel’ within us that we can access at any time.”

Becky gives the example of a mother of six who sought spiritual direction to help her grow deeper in faith.

According to Becky, this woman’s home was “was full of people, with two of her children in their bedroom because of the limited space in their house. Together, we reviewed her day and found that her best time of prayer was after dropping one of her children off at baseball practice. Her place of prayer was in her driveway sitting in her car. She would not roll up the garage door before pausing for 15 minutes of prayer. She made it her space of prayer by putting materials in her car to use. She decided the best prayer tool was The Examen. So she would pause in her driveway and review her day with God’s help noticing what she was thankful for, where she felt God’s presence, where she struggled to name God at work, and then she would ask for God’s help for her next 24 hours.”

Becky says that within a week, this woman “could feel her day take root in God, and she could feel the fruit of her prayer carrying out into her interactions with her husband and children and her work.”

This simple practice of prayer in the driveway brought a fresh peace to this woman’s chaotic life.

And it’s a peace, Becky says, we all have access to, with a little thought and preparation.

“St. Ignatius of Loyola reiterated the value of preparation to a person making the Spiritual Exercises,” Becky says. “While most people are not making the Spiritual Exercises, his wisdom offers us insights into how we can prepare ourselves for daily prayer.”

Becky asks her spiritual students three questions:

When can your time of prayer be? I encourage people to set aside a daily time of prayer and put it on their calendars. This might be morning, in the middle of the day, or in the evening.

Where can your place of prayer be? I invite people to survey their day and look for a place that is silent and still. This may be a quiet corner in their home or in their car or maybe at work.

What do you want to include in your space of prayer? Once people pick a place of prayer, I encourage them to make it a sacred space of prayer by including items that help them enter into stillness and silence. Items might include a candle, a Bible, pictures of family and friends, or other things that help point people towards God.

Then, she says, once people have their time, place, and space of prayer, “I suggest them to pick a prayer method to grow closer in God. Two of my favorite prayer methods are the Examen or Lectio Divina.”

Eldredge says making time for daily prayer has “transformed” her life. “It awakened me to God’s gift of love and mercy. Silence and prayer serve as rudders for my life, gently guiding every action and decision I make. Making the time for daily silence and prayer changed what I did with my time.”

And she says she sees a change in others as well. “When I watch others make the same time for silence and prayer,” Eldredge says, “I notice people coming to realize that they are never alone because God is with them anywhere and at anytime and serves as a light and guide. One of the most profound gifts of watching people commit to daily silence and prayer is to watch God’s gift of healing and forgiveness unfold and then radically transform a person as they are set free from deep hurts or wounds. To be honest, witnessing a person’s relationship with God grow and deepen is one of the greatest gifts of my life.”

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