I saw you rolling your eyes just now upon seeing the above title, but I want you to work with me for a moment. I realize that whether or not words rhyme is simply an accident of language, but perhaps we can use this happy accident to grow closer to God.
The Myth of Compartmentalized Living
We sometimes like to think of our lives as neat cubicles where we store our roles, duties, and other toys we use to get through our existence. We fancy a time for resting, eating, playing, working, bonding and, yes, praying. While such a simplistic view seems attractive on some levels, it is ultimately a myth most often perpetuated by our inner desire to be lazy neatly dressed as the virtue of being organized. After all, if I only have to bond during family bonding time, I am free to focus on other things the rest of the day. In truth, modern living more than ever demands multi-tasking. Just remember the time you were eating lunch while catching up on some work at the office or bonding with your kids while playing at the beach during a vacation.
The Myth of Compartmentalized Prayer
Even those of us who admit that our lives are anything but compartmentalized often see prayer as a getaway from precisely that kind of grind or mess. We wistfully imagine prayer as some sort of temporary escape from this earth. Accounts of intense prayer certainly approximate such an escape, and stories of saints levitating while in prayer do not detract from that image. There is no doubt that prayer can often be such an escape, but we must ask ourselves if all prayer should be that way. Many people reference Matthew 6:6 ( “when you pray, go into your room”) as a call that we escape the earth when we pray. However, does Matthew 6:6 call us to escape all the time or, for that matter, to escape at all?
Let Prayer Be Your Air
In contrast to Matthew 6:6, we find 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, 2 Chronicles 6:21, and Ephesians 6:18, which urge us to pray always and everywhere, and to seek God at all times. In truth, if we are to really follow Christ, and if we venture to call ourselves the children of God, then we must turn our lives into a a constant prayer. Sure, we have heard of levitating saints in prayer, but we must not forget saints who prayed while sweeping or tending sheep. We are called to unceasing prayer just as we are bound to unceasing air in order to survive. What better way to thank and praise God than to turn our very lives into a prayer?
The Secret to Turning Life into a Prayer
While there are certainly times when we need and should go to some quiet, secluded place to be with our God, the are many more times when we have the opportunity to fill our lives with God and His wonderful blessings. There is nothing wrong with praying while we do housework or rest, and do we not pray to God whenever we offer our joys and pains to His will? If we practice placing our lives at God’s altar as an offering of what is most important to us just as Abraham did with his son Isaac, then we are certainly praying while we are breathing.
There will be times when you need to pray in private and silence, but you are missing a beautiful opportunity if you confine your prayer as an escape from this world. Rather, practice becoming, as St. Francis urged us to do, an instrument of prayer in all that you do.