by Patti Maguire Armstrong | November 12, 2010 12:01 am
I’m not going to tell you how busy I am. After all, who isn’t? There have been a few occasions when people started talking about how busy they were, looked at me, paused and said something such as, “Oh, I guess I can’t say how busy I am around you.” I have ten kids, homeschool and write books–a real kill joy for anyone that wants to complain about being busy.
When this happens, I respond, “Hey, you have my permission to be busy. I felt just as busy with two kids as I am with ten.” And now, with my nest emptying out, somehow I’m not getting any less so. I haven’t figured that one out yet.
Busyness is the Human Condition
Let’s face it; no one seems to feel like they have time to spare. If there’s a gap in our schedule something fills it in before we have a chance to catch our breath. I’m not going to tell anyone to slow down until I figure out how to do it myself. I am, however, going to tell you that busyness is NEVER an excuse not to pray.
Life is full of all sorts of things, from mandatory survival activities to leisure. But one thing that should never be overlooked is prayer. It comes under the mandatory survival activities–for the soul. If we want to keep our souls alive we need to feed it with the breath of God.
We can pray throughout our day by lifting our thoughts to God, but we also need to set aside time each day at the beginning and end. I also think we need to find an hour at least once a week to spend before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer. There is nothing more powerful than emptying ourselves of worldly things so we can fill up with the things of heaven. I simply refuse to buy the excuse that people don’t have time to do this. It is a matter of making the time.
I am not just a mother with ten kids and nine books that finds a way to make time for prayer. Rather, because I make time for prayer, I am a mother with ten kids and nine books. I bet you need to go back and read that one more time to let it sink in. It is the prayer that has led me to where I am today–open to God, reporting for duty each day and following where He leads me.
Pray Even When it’s Hard
The topic of prayer is a theme in two of my books. In my first book Catholic Truths for Our Children, (Scepter Publishing) I make the point that often people lose their faith when they feel their prayers were not answered. Therefore, it’s important not to just teach children to pray when in need but to teach them that prayer is a way to strengthen ourselves and draw closer to God and not necessarily to present a list of needs. My recently published children’s book, Dear God, I don’t get it! (Bezalel Books) is about just that situation. The main character, Aaron, was praying that his family would not need to move. When they did end up moving, Aaron lost his faith in prayer and began to wonder what the point of praying was when you don’t get what you ask for. To further complicate the situation for him, he learned his brother was praying for the exact opposite intention.
I have spoken on this topic before and think it is key to keeping the faith…to keep praying even when faith feels like it is slipping away. When I interviewed Raymond Arroyo on his last book on Mother Angelica, he stressed how important it is to pray especially when it is hardest. Arroyo made the point that although Mother Angelica suffered a “dark night of the soul,” it was her habit of prayer that pulled her through. So even when she felt nothing, she did not stop praying.
(Excerpt from Catholic Truths for Our Children)
The temptation to despair is especially strong at times when prayer fails to relieve intense or relentless suffering. Because suffering often impels people to reject the notion of God altogether, I believe helping our children to accept life’s suffering is an essential part of their faith in God. They need answers to questions such as, “If God loves us, why does He let us suffer? Or, “I keep praying, so why isn’t God answering me?” This is much more difficult lesson to tackle than teaching our children to pray to a God who loves us.
Our relationship with God can either be strengthened or strained during suffering. Early training can help determine which it will be. When my children struggle with some difficulty, I often tell them that we suffer because this is not heaven….
We do not need to suffer alone. God will comfort us when we are hurt and save us from much needless pain if we let Him guide our lives. Teach and show your children to go to God in prayer for comfort and acceptance during difficult times. Share your own disappointments and sufferings with your children in a way that will impact them positively. Of course you don’t want to burden them with worries beyond their maturity but let them see you accepting and praying for strength during difficult times. During the times when we must struggle with an aspect of life not of our own choosing, we can do it with faith that God understands our difficulties and helps us carry our burdens. The Scriptures say:
“For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow” (2 Cor. 1:5).
“…My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
“Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Matt.. 11: 28-30).
Calling Families to Prayer
Bringing up Catholic children to love and serve God and know their faith is not easy. It is hard work, but it is also God’s work. Prayer acknowledges God is in charge of all things. He offers us comfort and guidance in our tasks through prayer.
Just talking to God is a prayer and that is something we can do throughout the day as easily as we can think about what we’ll make for dinner, or remembering we had better put gas in the car. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). By talking to God frequently and offering each day as a gift to Him, we can pray without ceasing. A prayer, known as the Jesus Prayer, can easily be said throughout the day: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” While doing mindless activities, waiting in line or in traffic, we can meditate and repeat the words, continuously calling on Jesus.
I cannot imagine trying to raise ten children without His constant help. I never imagined we could come as far as we have. Now, I can look back and see God’s hand in our lives. I know it doesn’t mean we’re safe from problems in our family. But Mark and I believe that as long as we stay close to God and make prayer a constant in our lives, at least we will never face problems alone.
This is not the way we began our family life. Initially, we prayed only at mealtimes and bedtime with the children. Now, we start the day and end the day with prayer and typically include it in between. If I drive a son to work, we pray together for God’s blessings. We pray for the school day, before selling raffle tickets, to find a lost item, before any competitions and after in thanksgiving, when taking a trip, etc.
There are still family prayer times where children have to be told to “put the toy down”, “leave the dog alone” or even “is anyone paying attention?” Yet, the kids immediately turn to God on their own for all their concerns and usually remember to pray in thanksgiving for blessings.
The point is to make God a habit in your life. If you are not accustomed to praying together with your family, it might feel uncomfortable at first. The more you do it, though, the easier it gets. Even though I tell my children they all need to develop their own personal relationships with God and that means praying on their own, it is still important that we also pray with them. Our children need our example and participation.
Prayers are powerful. The Bible mentions the need and value of prayer repeatedly. Nowhere in Scripture is there an example of someone being excused from prayer because they are too busy. Think about that.
Jesus prayed and he taught us the Our Father. We are told to pray unceasingly–no excuses. So, if you think you are too busy to set aside time to pray in your day, see if you can find a loophole written somewhere in Scripture. There really are no excuses.
Don’t think of this as a burden, however. God loves us and doesn’t want us to stray from Him. Prayer keeps us connected to Him. The connection keeps us on the path to heaven. Nothing in this world is of greater value than walking such a path. So the next time you think you are too busy to pray, ask yourself if you are too busy to stay close to God? I didn’t think so.
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