Pray Without Ceasing? ...I Can't Even Get Started.

How can a Mom pray without ceasing through the day?

I don't think it was until my second child turned 2 that I suddenly realized, "Hmm, I haven't been praying much." I went to Sunday Mass, made sporadic Adoration visits, and went to Confession...but daily prayer? Aside from what I did with the little ones before meals and bedtime? Not so much.

I tried getting up early to pray, but found myself falling asleep over my prayer book. I tried having prayer time during my two girls’ afternoon naps. That worked until the arrival of baby #3, who manifested a personal objection to napping at the same time as her siblings. And by the time all 3 were down for the night, there I was again, falling asleep on the Gospel of Matthew.

I wondered, “Was St. Paul actually serious when he said we should ‘pray without ceasing?’” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) I can't even begin, it seems, so I haven’t even gotten to the ceasing part.

I was a good 10 years into my mothering vocation when I discovered the writings of St. Josemaría Escrivá. St. Josemaría dedicated his life to formulating a practical spirituality for those "in the world." He taught that, just as holiness is not reserved for a select few, so prayer is not reserved for only certain times and places.

He takes the words of St. Paul to "pray without ceasing" to their logical end: I’m called to pray in the midst of all the actions of my day, from rising, to preparing a meal, to changing diapers, giving baths, pushing my daughter on the swing or doing a puzzle with my son.

A priest, St. Josemaría pointed out, offers sacrifice on the altar--but for me, my altar is the kitchen counter, the changing table, the family room floor. That is where I offer my sacrifice of praise, because I offer it in all that I do as a wife and mother.

Setting up prayer “signposts” in your home.

It’s one thing to say we’ll offer each act of our day to God, but it’s another to remember to do it. I will be the first to admit that changing the toddler's diaper after she's eaten too many raisins does not normally raise my mind to heaven. I need reminders. I mean, maybe not about toddlers and raisins, but about heaven.

St. Josemaría recommended having signposts in our days and in our homes to continually bring us back to the presence of God.

Putting up visual prayer reminders.

Mother Church is so wise in recommending the use of physical, visual sacramentals like crucifixes, holy images and statues. On St. Josemaría's advice, I started using these reminders already hanging in my home as touchpoints for prayer in the midst of my day. Each room has some holy image that we can look to for quick and simple prayer.

As I pass by the crucifix with my 2-year-old, she now asks to kiss Jesus's "boo-boos". When I'm having an epic dinner fail, I look to my icon of St. Euphrosynos in the kitchen and ask for help and peace. With all the daily trials we encounter as wives and mothers, how good that help is only a glance away.

Learning easy, short prayer “aspirations.”

St. Josemaría also recommended adopting some aspirations: very short prayers that can be said mentally anytime, anywhere. Just saying "Thank you, Jesus" or "I love you, Lord" throughout the day made a big difference in the closeness I felt to God. I stopped feeling like I had abandoned prayer or failed at it.

Adding more, quick "kid prayer" times.

St. Josemaría suggested specific prayer touchpoints throughout the day. Prayer before meals is a classic example. Taking my cue from that one, I saw that prayer with my children happened fairly easily, as long as I made a point of it. So I added a few more such times, tied to things that were already a natural part of the day.

We were already in the habit of prayer with the kids at bedtime, so I added 1) a morning prayer after breakfast and 2) the Angelus before lunch, to the family prayer routine.

All this is not to say that we shouldn't keep striving to set aside time dedicated solely to conversation with God. We do need that oasis in our days, and in spite of the ever-changing needs of my children, I must keep seeking it.  

Having these touchpoints sprinkled throughout our daily lives brings us back repeatedly to the presence of God. Hopefully with these set, simple prayer times, visual reminders, aspirations, and offering our work to God act by act, we will truly pray without ceasing.

Suzan Sammons is Mom to 6 daughters (toddler to college-age)  and 1 teenage son. She is a homeschooling mother and a writer and editor with The Saragossa Group.

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