There is a niche on my living room couch that has been carved out over the years by an after breakfast “plop.”
Right next to that spot sits an end table stacked with a Bible, meditation books, prayer cards, and a journal. Each day I go there to do my readings and to meditate.
At the start of each prayer session, I wonder if it will be a time of quiet reflection without interruption or noise. More likely, it will be characterized by broken concentration stemming from a string of exclamations—“Mom, I need help. . . . Mom, I spilled the juice. . . . Mom, where are you?”
I come from the school that sees individual prayer as private and personal. This view lays much weight on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:5-6: “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites”—those who love to pray in front of others. “Go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.”
I’ve come to the conclusion, though, that Jesus wasn’t talking to moms, and certainly not to any mom with a toddler. To go into a room and shut a door is virtually impossible—even a mom’s bathroom is not considered sacred by young children!
No, I’ve concluded that Jesus was telling us to be genuine in our talk with God. He was denouncing prayer that is done in a self-important spirit and for public show. There is nothing wrong with praying in plain view of others, as long as it is done sincerely.
“Mom Is Praying.” This realization has helped me to recognize and answer some questions about my daily prayer time: What is my goal? What am I trying to achieve during and through these sessions? What does God want to achieve?
Recognizing that God didn’t create us in a vacuum, I started to look at how my prayer relationship with God affects others. Certainly, my petitions and intercessions are of spiritual benefit to the people I name; my praise and thanksgiving prayers are uplifting to me; my prayers for forgiveness and mercy are mentally healing. Beyond these benefits, though, I began to consider my prayer time in relation to the people who are literally the closest to me when I pray—namely, my two young sons.
I had wondered sometimes whether I should be more demanding and just insist, “Be quiet, Mom is praying.” But usually, the children’s noise and questions were in keeping with their age and needs. In their own way, they were trying to be considerate.
As I pondered these things during my daily prayer attempts, Proverbs 22:6 impressed itself on me: “Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.” My instinctive question then became, What am I teaching my young children about how to live?
Hidden Benefits. Insight came as I investigated what the Bible says about Jesus’ times of prayer. By his very example of always turning to the Father with confidence that he is listening, Jesus taught the importance of prayer. He also used his disciples’ questions about prayer as a teaching opportunity to show them how to seek the Father for themselves.
For me, one of Jesus’ most precious lessons is that there is never a bad time to pray. Jesus prayed alone, but he also addressed his Father in the midst of crowds. Even in the worst of conditions, he prayed: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Reflecting on all of this, it struck me that God may be working in hidden ways through my often-frustrated attempts to be alone with him. Perhaps, in his infinite wisdom, he is giving me something even better than the quiet prayer times I long for. Perhaps he is already at work to answer another of my fervent prayers: that my children will also develop the habit of personal prayer as they get older.
They know about the importance of praying with others at church. But have they also been impressed with the importance of a daily conversation with God? All I can say is that my sons have seen me making prayer a priority during these busy “mom” years of my life. Right there in the daily commotion, they can see that God invites us to talk, pray, and listen to him in any circumstance, in any environment, at any time.
Pray Always. Seeing that quiet prayer is not the ultimate goal, I look for other ways to supplement my time with God. I can’t take the advice of getting up earlier or going to bed later that so many sources recommend. I’m sleep-deprived even with extracurricular activities cut to a bare minimum. Instead, I’ve learned to pray as I go about my daily activities.
I use helps such as note calendars with daily Bible quotes and meditations—reminders that are easily posted in the kitchen. The Rosary on tape or a Christian radio program can be helpful during a commute to and from work or activities. A brief escape on the computer through a daily meditation delivered by email can encourage spiritual thought. So do meditation books strategically placed around the house. And, of course, even if my attention is somewhat divided, I persist in my daily sit-down time with my books and my Lord.
So I will no longer be dismayed over my inability to spend hours in quiet prayer. Regardless of how busy I am, how riotous my household is, or how exactly I go about it, my first aim is to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in all circumstances, give thanks (see 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). This is what I hope my children are learning from seeing their mother at her daily prayer—be it ever so imperfect.
Vicky Galczynski lives in Jarrettsville, Maryland.