One of my earliest memories is of something I never want to forget: my mother teaching me to pray.
I was three or four years old, and it was still early evening when my mother tucked me into bed in my room, in our house on Morgal Street, Rockville, Maryland. She whispered, “Say your prayers. You know how to pray? You do it like this”:
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom God’s love commits me here,
Ever this day, be at my side
To light, to guard, to rule, to guide. Amen.
And that was how it began.
Now, nearly sixty years later, I look back on that time and it seems so simple. Life was simple, yes. But so was praying. There’s a plainness and purity to that prayer, with all those short, easy words and the unabashedly humble request: Guardian Angel, take care of me. G’night.
As I got older, prayer became more challenging—the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, then the Memorare and assorted chaplets, and then the Rosary, the Creed, the Prayer of St. Francis, and on and on and on. Oh, the Rosary! How I remember the May Procession at St. Peter’s Catholic School, walking around in the May sun, reciting decade after decade, and the ancient and grim-faced Sister Irenaeus, swathed in black, pummeling the organ as we sang “Immaculate Mary” and “Hail, Holy Queen.” Did praying have to be that hard? And hot? Did it have to be done in the heat?
Many years later, when I was ordained as a deacon, I discovered the Liturgy of the Hours and praying the psalms, the Magnificat, and Benedictus.
These are all part of the glorious legacy of the Church, and every Catholic should be familiar with them. But not everyone has the inclination—or, significantly, the time—to pray.
And there’s the rub.
Let’s face it: in a world where soccer practice, work, the gym, PTA meetings, school projects, Twitter, and Netflix dominate our lives, it can be challenging and seemingly impossible to find time to pray. There are deadlines to meet, bills to pay, babies to diaper, reports to file, gardens to weed, emails to answer, groceries to buy. And praying? Talking to God? Amid the stresses and strains of daily life, many of us take God’s name in vain, if we mention him at all.
We want to pray, but who has the time?
Well . . . you. You do. Yes, you. The busy person who can’t find your keys or this week’s grocery list can, in fact, find time to pray. It is not impossible. If you’re reading this right now, you want to know how you can do what you feel called to do, what you want to do, but that you somehow can’t find the opportunity to do: pray. To offer up a good word to our good God. To stay connected to the Creator in a way that is fruitful and intimate and will nourish the soul—and just maybe do some good.
How can I do that? you’re wondering.
Glad you asked.
There is a way to pray when you feel you just can’t. (Yes, you can. Really.) Building a steady and fulfilling prayer life can be done, even if you think it can’t.
But be forewarned: I offer here no magic formulas, no easy solutions. This isn’t like one of those diets where you can “sleep” the pounds away. You will have to do some work. But as St. Benedict put it when he wrote his famous Rule, I’m hoping this won’t be “harsh or burdensome.”
The best prayer is an act of love. At its root, it really should be deceptively, almost shockingly, simple.
I’m a writer, journalist, blogger, storyteller, preacher, husband, and deacon – a busy person who is still trying to make time to pray. It isn’t easy. Believe me, I know. But I hope to offer some ideas on how to get started. The best prayer is an act of boundless surrender and joy, communicating with God in a way that is unique, intimate, and utterly honest. It is an act of love. And at its root, it really should be deceptively, almost shockingly, simple.
“Angel of God, my Guardian dear . . .”
Yes, that simple.
I hope you’ll find this helpful, something that will encourage more prayer—a stepping-stone that will, as a famous prayer to the Holy Spirit puts it, “Enkindle . . . the fire of God’s love.”
Ready to strike a match and start the flame? Then let us pray. “Holy Spirit, help me to pray today.”
This is a selection from The Busy Person’s Guide to Prayer, by Deacon Greg Kandra (The Word Among Us Press, 2019). Available at wau.org/books