Four years ago today, I quit quiet times. I was frustrated with my own inability to do them and I didn’t think they were helpful. Since then, there have been periods where I’ve tried some different spiritual disciplines, but on the whole, I generally suck at any type of consistency with those types of things. After some conversations with my advisor at Princeton, we decided it might be good for me to work on some consistency with prayer. It’s probably one of the simplest and most difficult independent studies I could be assigned: pray for 15 minutes every day. That’s it. We called it Authenticity in the Christian Life. As one who is about to head out into the ministry, it only makes sense for my own authenticity that I be a praying person. One can’t really encourage others to do something they aren’t doing.
I was looking forward to it, but I was also apprehensive and scared at the same time. What if it doesn’t really do anything for me? What if I feel like it doesn’t really make any difference in my life? It’s been many years since I’ve tried something on a regular basis like this, what if I simply can’t do it?
But I have been doing it. Sure, I’ve missed a couple days here and there. But I have making time in my day for prayer. One thing that has helped me is to pray in a variety of ways. Here are some things I’ve tried:
- Lectio divina
- Picking a phrase and using it as a mantra to repeat as I walk Sadie at night
- Listening to the Pray As You Go Podcast, produced by British Jesuits
- Praying with the online resource Sacred Space
- Just sitting in silence
Sometimes it’s more meaningful than others – but that’s just how it goes I think. I had to try a few different podcasts before I found one I enjoyed. Some nights Sadie behaves well on the walk and I can stay focused. But when she’s running and jumping around me as I try to pick up her poop, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” doesn’t have as much potency as other times.
But the other day, I noticed something. I was driving around Princeton and stopped at a red light. And I started praying. Once I realized what was happening, I was kind of shocked. Being in a prayerful state is not very usual for me when I’m in the car on Rt 1 in New Jersey (although, it is perhaps for others in the car with me when I’m driving…). But it seems that one benefit of setting aside 15 minutes to pray every day is that it just becomes part of your day. So, now – I find myself praying at random times of the day as well.
I certainly don’t have this mastered, and I know there will be plenty of other days I’ll miss in the future, but I think I’m going to try and keep this in my daily routine after the semester and independent study is completed. I know you are all very busy as well, but if this sounds like something you’d like to work on, I’d encourage you to try it along with me. Start with even just 5 minutes, and then let me know how it’s going for you.