Take a short prayer break

Published: June 6, 2007 | 6335th good news item since 2003

Years ago a priest friend showed me some daily schedule pads that he had made up for himself. At the top was a line for the date and the heading “To Do Today” and then 15 lines for the various things he wanted to accomplish. The basic difference from similar pads was that on lines 1, 5 and 10 it had “Pray” and on line 15 it said “Thanksgiving Prayer.”

The first time I saw the pad I commented that it would be interesting to market it, and suggested that he let me “borrow” the idea as a premium for the diocesan paper where I worked at the time. He was okay with that if I didn’t tell anyone where the idea had come from. He didn’t want credit in any way. The pads were his way of reminding himself each day of God’s primary place in his priesthood and his life. Line 15, he said, was the most important because it reminded him to thank God for the gifts of the day and – some days – for the help God had given him to make it through the day.

He said that the idea came to him soon after his ordination, following his first months assigned to a parish. Filled with the excitement and self-importance of his new work, he got so caught up in his parish ministry that at the end of too many days he realized that, other then presiding at Mass, he’d taken little time during the day for prayer and reflection as he regularly did in the more structured seminary life. The pads were his way of making sure prayer was always on his schedule and on his mind.

As one who gets caught up in my own daily “To Do” list, it was good for me to hear that a priest had to remind himself to take a few minutes during a day to put things into a prayerful perspective. I thought it was just me!

For many of us, it seems our schedules are not just filled, but jammed, with commitments, appointments and “absolutely-have-to-do” projects. I leave it to the social scientists to explain why this happens, but I know I sometimes feel overwhelmed by my schedule. Even getting a bite to eat, let alone a meal, is a challenge. Take a few minutes for prayer or meditation? I’ll get to that later or tomorrow!

I find that when it gets that way the healthiest thing I can do is take even five minutes for a “prayer break” right at my desk. I have a couple of resources I use to help me in this quiet time. Obviously and honestly, the day’s reading in our Christopher book Three Minutes a Day helps me focus on the good in the world around me.

In this computer age I can also go to Sacred Spaces, a Web site of the Irish Jesuits that has a short reflection, scriptural reading and prayer. To my surprise one of my own brothers recently told me that when he turns on his computer in the morning he listens to “Christopher Minutes” on our Web site (www.christophers.org). Even though he has to listen to me (his words!) he says that it helps him at least start the day in a positive perspective.

I’m sure the short prayer breaks I take during the day help me to slow down a bit, and that makes them mental-health breaks too. Yet I know that first and foremost the breaks help me put all the busyness into perspective – and remember to make my work a prayer.

Published in Prayer
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