Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rescheduling Prayer when Life is Topsy Turvy

A recent trip to help my daughter as she recovered from childbirth reminded me that one's neat, consistent routine for praying 5 liturgical hours each day can be blown to bits by the demands of  small children. While Bernadette rested and cared for newborn Edward Francis, my job was to fix meals, buy groceries, and most of all, care for 18 month old big brother Harald. All of which was simple enough to do, but definitely at the expense of prayer. Not a single day of my visit saw me getting to all five hours. One  day I didn't get around to any of them, and fell into bed too exhausted to even think to do Night Prayer.

It wasn't that caring for Harald was that much more time-consuming than the things I do at home. Problem is, his needs had to met when he wanted them met, not when I would have preferred to meet them. 9:00 am, my preferred time for Office of Readings, was Harald's preferred time for breakfast. My 5pm Evening Prayer time was precisely when he would get cranky if he wasn't being played with. So I was really thrown off kilter.

If I had stayed with my daughter another week, I probably would have taken the time to figure out a new schedule for my prayer times: perhaps getting out of bed a little sooner to do Morning Prayer and Office of Readings; remembering to take advantage of Harald's naptimes to fit in Daytime Prayer; accepting that Evening Prayer would simply not happen unless I waited until the little guy was tucked into bed at 8pm.  But as it was, by the time I realized that I'd have to adjust my way of looking at the "proper" times to pray each hour, it was time to return to my home and to my old routine.

Moral of the story: drastic changes in our lives--new jobs, travelling, new babies, new responsibilities--can wreak havoc on even your firmest habits. In these cases, it's time to discern what's realistic and workable in the new lifestyle you're living. This could mean a decision to pray fewer hours while getting accustomed to the new situation, and/or figuring out new times to pray. It also means figuring out new activities to associate with prayer time. (e.g. just before dinner becomes just after dinner or just after a TV program. Just after washing breakfast dishes  might become during a coffee break at work.) Nearly every kind of daily schedule allows for some natural breaks. We just have to find them.