Saturday, November 27, 2021

What’s Your Excuse? Hindrances to Spousal Prayer

As I sat in church praying a rosary before a recent Sunday Mass, I noticed a young couple respectfully genuflect and take their places in the pew. As both of them knelt and prayed, I was completely struck by their devotion and obvious love of God as they prepared for Mass. I was also intrigued by their physical differences. The gentlemen had a man-bun and goatee and was wearing Bermuda shorts and flip flops. The lady wore a simple dress with a flamboyant floral pattern. Her nails were painted to match the dress. As Mass continued, I was completely impressed with not only their participation but also their reverence all throughout the Liturgy.  I watched them as they prayed the Liturgy together as a couple, not just two individuals sitting side by side.

I am reminded of this story as I continue my series on prayer. Let’s focus on the third key as described by Father Eamon Tobin in his book, “13 Powerful Ways to Pray: Connecting Prayer with Daily Life.”

One of the challenges for those who take to heart a lifestyle of prayer is having the time spent in prayer permeate throughout the entire day. As Father Tobin points out, “If Jesus is to become Lord of our life, he must be invited to guide and permeate every activity of our day.”1 Too often do we try to “silo” our life into compartments of work, family time, leisure time, chores/hobbies, often giving whatever is left over to prayer. Human beings are made to integrate God into every aspect of their life – EVERY aspect. This is why St. Therese of Lisieux said that even when we pick up a bit of thread with love, we can empty purgatory!

Through this perspective, every action we take throughout our day can become a prayer. “All for the greater glory of God!” should be our mantra! Handing over our daily activity to the Lord is, as Father Tobin states, occupational prayer.  “… It is the daily dialogue we have with God as we go about the daily tasks of life … it gives quality and power to the mundane, pedestrian affairs of life.”2

Our prayer time should not be flooded with activity. There should be a time in which we go away from the daily grind to focus on our relationship with the Lord. This is what Father Tobin calls spousal prayer. It is when our hearts speak as well as listen to the Heart of God!

So, what can prevent us from entering into this time of prayer? The following are suggestions posed by Father Tobin, the explanations are mine.

Are we too busy? Prayer is as important as brushing our teeth or taking a shower. Using this excuse of busyness really means that one does not have the discipline or does not see the importance of the call to enter into spousal prayer. I am often asked, “How long should someone pray every day?” The answer, “At least 20 minutes.”

Formal or spousal prayer is just for priests and religious and very dedicated lay people, but not for the ordinary Catholic. Um, no! This attitude is completely skewed. Every single person who is baptized is called by God to be holy! Please read that sentence again! Because of your baptism, you are called to be a saint. Lean into the reality. Decide to dedicate a part of your day to prayer. The trick is to completely dedicate yourself to it!

I’d have no idea how to spend twenty minutes of quiet time with the Lord. This excuse does have some weight. BUT, there are resources that can assist you; the Rosary, reading the Liturgy of the Hours, or other spiritual readings, and don’t forget the plethora of podcasts and/or videos that would assist you in mental prayer or other forms of prayer. One such resource is www.pray-as-you-go.org. Finally, there are musicians who write songs for prayer and worship. Listening to these songs as you open your heart to the gentle whispers of the Holy Spirit is indeed prayer. It really doesn’t matter HOW you pray, it’s a manner THAT you pray.

I used to have a daily quiet time, but I quit because I felt I was making no progress, going nowhere. Sometimes, God does seem distant to us when we spend time with Him in prayer. When people mention that to me, I ask them, “Are you attached to the consolations of God, or the God of Consolations?” The difference? Sometimes in prayer, God does give us “warn fuzzies;” moments of clarity and assuredness. Other times, seemingly nothing happens. This is the moment in which we transition from baby food to solid food, even though it might be “mashed” up! So, rather than quitting, keep praying!

I don’t want to get too serious about prayer because – consciously or unconsciously – I’m afraid of losing control over my life. In a whisper, I answer, “You never did have control over it.” I believe that COVID and the pandemic taught us all that, even though we THINK we are in control, we aren’t. God is! The call from God begun by our baptism is one to surrender to His will! The amazing thing is that He gives us the grace to do this!

 I don’t want to listen too closely to God in prayer because I’m afraid of what the Lord might say to me. Fear is real. But, perfect love casts out fear. If you are afraid of God asking something that is beyond your strength, please read the final sentence in the paragraph above. If you are afraid of being sent someplace that you have never gone, you are a modern-day apostle! If you are afraid of being called “weird” or “overly religious,” you are in good company. Jesus’ contemporaries even called Him insane! If you are just afraid, might I suggest that your fear might lie in the realization of God’s endless mercy. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING that you have done will damper His love for you! You may have doubts, but even the Blessed Mother had fears about experiencing God’s love. You are in good company!

In short, never ever stop praying. If you haven’t started, then what’s preventing you? It is an incredible journey to fall in love with One who infinitely loved you first!

1Tobin, Eamon. 13 Powerful Ways to Pray. Beacon Publishing, 2016. Pg. 46.

2Eamon, pg. 48.

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness

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