As a wife and mother of two children working outside of the home, I am always asked how I manage to find time to pray. Add flu season, quick jaunts to the doctor and pharmacist a couple of times a week, and it’s daunting.
Recently, my youngest, Gabriel, was sick with an ear infection. He gets these often enough to know the routine of the in-and-out visit and his favorite “bubble gum medicine” being magically sent to the pharmacist for pick up.
After a few days, Gabriel always ends up feeling better and our world goes back to the break-neck speed I can handle. This last time, I forgot a dose and mentioned it to him.
Gabriel assured me it was ok because he was feeling better and probably didn’t need it. I quickly explained the need to take medicine exactly as it’s prescribed by the doctor. “Just because we feel better, doesn’t mean we stop taking medicine, Gabriel”. Can you see my finger wagging? He nodded like the little man he is (did I mention, he’s 6 years old?).
I realized in that moment, how what I said applies to prayer life. How easy is it to pray to God in supplication, with requests and intentions for you or your family? When the kids are bouncing off the walls and you want to scream, but instead all you can manage is “God, please, please help me!” I do it, certainly. I always turn to Him when my life or circumstance isn’t what I want or think I need. What about when my marriage and relationships with others are in a good place? Do I pray then, or do I forget, because I have nothing to ask for? Admittedly, yes. I do that. I shouldn’t. I should pray regardless, even if it’s just to offer up my day “Lord open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise”.
Prayer helps to bolster us when those valleys in our lives come. It’s in those moments where we’re stretched thin and surrounded by piles of laundry, or another late night at the office missing out on dinner and family time, that we need to draw upon the strength of prayer in all the seasons of our life.
We shouldn’t wait for a crisis to turn to God and beg for help because we’ll be empty, the well will be dry, so to speak. At that point, we’re at our weakest and if we don’t get what we’re asking, it would be easy to say that God isn’t listening. Wouldn’t it? I assure you that’s not the case. If all we do is pray when things go wrong, we’re not spending any time listening. How can we recognize His voice if all we do is talk at Him in times of stress? We never listen to the prescription, let alone take it!
Praying through the good times is called spiritual consolation. In St. Ignatius’ Rules for Discernment, he writes “Let the one who is in consolation think how he will conduct himself in the desolation which will come after, taking new strength for that time” (Tenth Rule).
In plain English, when things are good, pray, because when they’re bad, you’ll have filled your coffers and can draw from that.
Put still another way, Sun Tzu said “In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace.”
Let’s go back to that example of the kids screaming. Putting myself back there, with a more consistent prayer life, maybe I won’t be so quick to frantically spurt “God, please help me!” in a frustrating tone (and really, I’m saying that in place of some other four letter words as I roll my eyes). I will have strength to draw upon. The shift to “God, please give me the grace to respond lovingly toward my children and myself” is a win-win, and we always want that.
So, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).