Prayer – am I doing it wrong?


This year all the colleagues I work with have received a copy of a book called the Ignatian Adventure by Kevin O’Brien, S.J. This book guides a person through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, hopefully alongside a spiritual director. I started “the adventure” this week, and I have to admit, I am already starting to feel like I am failing at it. This is probably how all perfectionists feel when they can’t control something – and prayer is definitely something that I can not control. 

We did an exercise last week that asked us to think about when and where we would pray. As I considered the question, I thought about praying in the morning at home. I get up early, I could probably squeeze twenty minutes in there between getting ready and making breakfast. However, each morning comes with its own set of challenges where squeezing in time becomes an impossibility. For example, this morning, my three little angels decided to wake up an hour early themselves just for fun and I lost much of my morning quiet time. So, I considered praying in my office instead during the few minutes of quiet that come in the morning between walking my son to school and the madness of the first period. I found, however, that time is not as quiet or reflective as I hoped. It worked for a day or two, but interruptions are unpredictable. I found myself completely skipping over day three by accident. It can be so frustrating when you can’t find enough time or the “right” time for prayer. It can feel like you are “failing” at it. And in the past, I thought that meant I had to stop something like this busy person’s retreat I am on. 

Today, however, I found a few minutes much later in the day where it seemed like everyone around me was occupied. I was working diligently on my to-do list and as I moved some items around on my desk, I uncovered the journal and the book. I closed my office door, opened the book and searched for the passage O’Brien suggested for today. It was Psalm 133. It is a short psalm that contains the line “Rather, I have stilled my soul.” This line leapt from the page for me. I paused and breathed deeply wondering if I could actually feel my soul still. I imagined my thoughts quieting and the world slowing down. And then, just a minute later, the world regained its fluster of activity right outside my door. I put my book away and re-entered into my life. I had only a couple minutes to pray, but it was enough to still my heart and remind me of God’s presence. 

I imagine that there will be days in this process where I find 30-45 minutes to pray through the scripture and days like today where I find snippets of time throughout my day. And I think that is okay. This process of going through the exercises this time might be slow, but I feel I need to show up in whatever way I can and let God do the rest. 

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