Wednesday, January 4, 2012

When People Interrupt Your Prayers

Yesterday a reader commented that a point in favor of praying with a real breviary--as opposed to an electronic device--was that family members were far less likely to interrupt one's prayers. Their questions about how soon supper will be ready, remarks about the weather, etc., will die on their lips when they see  that breviary in your lap. "Oops!" this person will think, "Mom (or Dad, or my spouse) is praying. What I want to say can wait until later."  Whereas they'll feel more free to interrupt if they think you're just surfing the internet or reading a novel on your Kindle.

Maybe that's how it is with your family. Mine just start talking to me without bothering to look at what I'm doing, so the distinction of real breviary vs. Kindle are often lost on them. Maybe if I were kneeling in the middle of the floor with my hands clasped, they'd realize something was up. But me sitting in a chair has no special significance, whatever I might be holding in my hands.

 I decided a long time ago to just accept the interruptions rather than go the route of, "I'm saying my prayers right now."  Since many of the interruptions really had to be dealt with right away, I often had no choice. As for the less urgent interruptions, I don't want the kids or my husband to think they had annoyed me with their remarks or questions.(also--most of my children are on the introverted side. So I don't want to do anything which would stifle communication. If the house were full of Motor Mouths my approach would  likely  be different.) So instead I answer them briefly ("your jeans are in the dryer"  "dinner's in half an hour" "yes, the snow is beautiful.") and return to the prayer. If their request requires more than a short answer from me ("Can you help me with this homework?") then I will say, "I'll be with  you in a few minutes." and finish the liturgical hour.

Since I'm not a religious or even a  third order member(with serious obligations to pray the LIturgy), I figure my primary duty is to them, not to my Office. If I were really craving uninterrupted prayer time, I'd go to my bedroom and shut the door.

That being said, I'm at a place in life where much of the time I can pray without any interruptions at all. So I guess getting interrupted a couple times a week just isn't that big a deal. When the kids were younger, interruptions were frequent, and as a result, my Office  was often left unfinished.

Another thing that makes accepting interruptions easy for me: interruptions don't throw off my concentration. I can  pick up where I left off and get right back into the "mood" of what I was praying. Lots of people can't do this. It's important to them to be able to finish the whole psalm, or the set of three psalms in the psalter, or the entire liturgical hour in one piece.

On the other hand, maybe I'm way too concerned about my family's feelings and not concerned enough about the integrity of the prayer. I mean, this is Liturgy, right? A priest can't drop everything in the middle of mass to  attend to someone's needs, then come back and finish the mass from wherever he left off. Perhaps it is better to train family members--insofar as they are mature enough to handle it--to leave you alone when you tell them that you are praying. There's a lot to be said for family members learning to recognize that your are praying, and that prayer is important. And the prayer is also something that you are doing --in part--for them.

This is just one of those issues we all stumble and bumble through as we juggle the active and contemplative parts of our lives. God knows we do the best we can.

How do you deal with family members, friends, co-workers, etc. who interrupt your  prayers?