In case you don’t remember, this whole Advent series was inspired by a new cleaning routine I’m trying to stick with. A load a day keeps the chaos away. As most stay-at-home parents will tell… More
After talking about preparation for a few days now I don’t want you to think that we are only preparing ourselves for specific moments of prayer. We are actually doing something much bigger. We are laying the foundation for a lifelong relationship with God. We are preparing the way to deeper and fuller communion with our God who made us.
One of the great Advent cries comes from John the Baptist, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths!” (Mark 1:3). Why do we need to straighten the pathways? Because through sin and separation from God, the ways to our hearts have become twisted, overgrown and rocky. By daily coming to God in prayer, we slowly erode away the obstacles in the way. We trim back the thorns and plant flowers in their place. We reorient ourselves toward God rather than seeking fulfillment in other places. We become better able to seek God and receive what God is constantly desiring to give us – His complete, undivided and everlasting love.
Getting beyond the metaphor, I’m sure each one of us knows of a part of our path that presents an obstacle to our relationship with God. Maybe we enjoy to gossip. Perhaps we indulge in shopping or an overabundance of food. We might prioritize recreational activities over weekly Mass. We could lie to ourselves, believing we are too busy to pray, when in reality we mismanage or are wasteful with our time.
Choose one thing today that you want to work on for the rest of Advent. You can use your prayer time to reflect on what God is calling you to let go of or change. Remember, part of being prepared is being flexible enough to work with change rather than against it.
Another way you might focus your efforts today is through music. Regardless of how you feel about the musical Godspell, there is one simple song that is perfect for today’s experience. At the very start of the musical, John the Baptist enters and sings a simple song that is 7 words long: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” That’s it, over and over again. It can become mantra-like in your head if you let it (you probably have to slow the tempo down a little bit, but you’ll get it). Use those words, let them reverberate through your whole self during the day and see where God leads you in them.
***Have you paused yet today to pray the Sign of the Cross? If you have, awesome! If not, that’s OK. Maybe your best time of day hasn’t come yet. If it has come and gone, take a moment right now and reconnect with God. Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook page.
Yesterday we spoke about how part of being prepared is being flexible and part of being flexible is knowing how and when. Knowing the times that we have in our day that lend themselves to prayer is vital to an active prayer life. If you only try to pray in the morning and you have a hard time getting out of bed, chances are your prayer life isn’t doing so hot.
One of the things that I appreciate about the Flylady (remember her from the intro to these Advent experiences?) is her appreciation of daily maintenance. Rather than having one giant, overwhelming laundry day, she recommends one load a day. “A load a day keeps the chaos away.” Start one in the morning, move it to the dryer at lunchtime. Fold and put away in the evening.
Being prepared means maintaining the work you’ve done so that you can build on top of it. So far we have looked at the Sign of the Cross and considered what times of our day are best suited to concentrated moments of prayer. Today, let’s put those two things together.
From now until the end of Advent (well, ideally, from now until you see God face to face), choose one specific time of the day that you can pause and pray the Sign of the Cross. Write a reminder in your calendar, put a post-it on the refrigerator, pin a note to your cubicle, however and wherever you need to put your reminder(s) do so. Have one time each day that you pause and connect with God (check back on the first post to remind yourself of all the different things you are doing when you pray this simple prayer).
At the same time, Jesus, who at the supreme moment of death entrusts himself totally to the hands of God the Father, communicates to us the certainty that, however harsh the trial, however difficult the problems, however acute the suffering may be, we shall never fall from God’s hands, those hands that created us, that sustain us and that accompany us on our way through life, because they are guided by an infinite and faithful love. – Pope Benedict XVI, 15 Feb. 2012 General Audience
***What is your best time for prayer? Mine is right after putting the girls down for their quiet time/nap time and after I’ve gotten John going on whatever his quiet time activity is. Usually around 1pm or so. Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook page.
So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. – Matthew 24:44
This is the last line from yesterday’s Gospel reading. Jesus is calling us to prepare ourselves for His coming. Jesus is coming again, and we are not privy to the date, time or location. We must always be in a state of readiness.
As a military family, this phrase “state of readiness” has a unique meaning. Though now Ben is going to be on the training side of the house, the past 4 years we lived in a constant state of readiness. We were ready for him to deploy, ready for him to be gone for an unknown number of days, ready to convert our household from two parents to one and back to two again. After going through that experience, it is my opinion that being in a state of readiness actually means being willing to not only accept but actively work with transition and change. Part of being prepared is the ability to be flexible.
If you are a scheduling type of person, see how scheduling 3 minutes of prayer goes today. You can schedule it for any time of the day, and you can say any prayer you want. You can say the Sign of the Cross and contemplate it’s meaning, you can slowly pray an Our Father or Hail Mary, or speak to God from your heart. You can even set a timer if you want.
If you are not a hard and fast scheduling person, consider setting 3 alarms on your phone to go off throughout the day. If an alarm goes off and you are unable to stop what you are doing for prayer, disregard it and wait for the next one. See what times of day lend themselves to more focused prayer than others. Shoot for 3 minutes of uninterrupted prayer as described in the previous paragraph. You must have 3 minutes somewhere, right?
Part of being prepared is laying the foundation for the change to come. Knowing the times that are best for your prayer time is one way to add a few more sturdy blocks to your foundation.
****How did your Sign of the Cross go yesterday? Was it easy or hard to remember to pause and do it? Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook page.