Prayer Changes Things

1707 1707_ () 1707 1707 Weekly column

A few months ago I got a letter from a young mom asking me for advice, wondering what words of wisdom and encouragement I could offer in the midst of her challenging season. She had a lot of very little children and the days, while joy-filled, also felt long and overwhelming.

In my response to this mother, I mentioned a few things, suggestions of simplifying the home, of keeping a schedule that included children going to bed early to help maintain sanity. I talked about realistic expectations (from her children and herself), and of the need to recognize that this season will pass. People used to tell me that too, I wrote, and while I never believed them it turns out they were right.

“But most importantly,” I added at the end, “take time to pray. This is one of the best uses of your time and energy.”

A few days later, as I thought about my advice, I felt a bit sheepish. I’m not sure how I would have felt if that was what I had heard from someone in my hour of need. Taking time to pray sounds very well and good, but it doesn’t get the laundry folded or the menu planned. Suddenly what I wrote seemed overly-esoteric when something more pragmatic would have been appreciated.

I also reflected on where I was even five years ago. Back then I was emerging from the hardest phase (to date) of my motherhood experience, The Investment Years – the days of literally building a family by adding members to the mix. I don’t know that having a prayer time was on my list of “things I’m really going to get done today.”

I knew the importance of spending time in prayer each day, but I also reasoned that God understood my heart, my genetic makeup and my need for a level of order and peace that took constant effort. “I will meet you at the laundry room table,” I’d say to the Lord, every time I felt a nudge on my heart to spend time with Him.

But in the midst of those days, I also began to recognize my overwhelming need for more of God in my life. Not just an awareness of Him or constant pleas for his mercy and love, but of a go-to relationship that would buoy me throughout these very trying days.

Each week at Mass, I would pour my heart out to the Lord, telling him how much I loved him and wanted to be closer to him. His answer was always the same.

“Spend time with me,” I would hear, every single time.

Eventually I caught on and started spending a few minutes each morning in silent meditation. Maybe it wasn’t even anything more than what I did at the laundry room table – turning my thoughts to God, thanking Him, praising Him. The difference, however, was that I was making Him the priority, even just for these few minutes. He was there with me the rest of the day as well, but this was something special.

The fruit in my life was worth the effort, and makes me wish I had done this sooner.

I’m not saying I have mastered contemplation, but at least I see that it works. I go through seasons where I struggle with getting up early and sitting quietly with the Lord. Too quickly I forget why I make that effort, and that’s when I usually find myself easily annoyed and having to work hard on basic principles of Christian living (being nice, for example).

At confession recently, as I told the priest my sins, I was embarrassed by the petty nature of what I heard myself saying. I’m sure no one is ever proud of what they have to say in the confessional, but that day it felt especially pathetic.

“Take time for prayer,” said the priest, “and these things will get better.”

“Really,” I asked him, “you promise?”

Just the reminder I needed to set myself in the right direction again – and some of the best advice I think anyone can offer after all. 1707″>

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Comments

  1. I need this tatooed on my forehead… better yet (because I rarely have time to look in the mirror) perhaps I should have it tatooed on the foreheads of my children.

  2. That was so good. Like reading my thoughts. It just goes to show how true it is that God really wants a personal relationship with us. After having children this has become so much more true in my life because before I was so busy trying to do things for the Lord and get things from him. After I got everything I wanted (husband and kids) those things didn't satisfy and I was left longing for something. He showed me it was Him all along I was longing for and when I make our relationship a priority everything else is a blessing. When I don't everything turns into a burden that is too heavy to bear. Thanks for the reminder. And sometimes the simplist advice is not what someone wants but it is what they need.

  3. I have a 27-month-old, a 13-month-old, and am expecting in March. Recently, I've been waking up a half-hour before DH and the kids and praying the rosary. It's been a real grace. And I mean that literally, since I don't have an alarm clock. I'm very grateful for that time with the Lord (and with myself) before the daily hurricane hits.

  4. Rachel-
    I'm right in the middle of "the season." The one that includes a toddler and a newborn still getting up 2+ times a night to nurse. Plus we are in the middle of selling our house, buying a new house and then, subsequently, moving. It's been a big ball of stress to say the least. Our new house is twice as expensive as our old one and while I know that we can afford it, I'm still just trying to imagine how it's all going to pan out. I let everything get to me too easily.

    Although your plan sounds easy enough, it's also way too easy to forget to take time to prayer. But yesterday morning I remembered this post and before I got out of bed to dish up Cherrios, I took a moment of silence and asked the lord to take away all my worries and especially to be with me when I needed Him most throughout the day. And guess what? I had the best day! Nothing in particular happened but everything just seemed easier. My hair did what I wanted it to, the laundry got folded and put away, dinner was done before hubby got home from work and I even had time to get on the floor and do a puzzle with my two-year-old. It really is amazing what a little prayer can do to a frenzied life. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Thanks for the encouraging comments, ladies. Jenny #2, I especially love what you said about even having a good hair day! God really does meet us where we are at, no?

  6. You are SO right Rachel…LOVED this column!