Sisters & Brothers,
I was texting back and forth with a friend a few weeks ago and had expressed that I was feeling fairly tired and was looking forward to a peaceful rest that night. He then followed up asking why I was tired and what my day looked like. A part of me just wanted to explain that I'm human and we all get tired at some point. But somehow I knew that answer wouldn't fly and would make me sound like a pompous ass. So I explained my day: wake up an hour of prayer and silence/contemplation, morning mass, work, evening prayer, reading & writing, night prayer and some more time in silence usually contemplating some scripture or a thought I've had that day. His response to me has been something I've been thinking about for awhile now: "that's far too regimented and over discipline is never a good thing".
I'll respectfully disagree with that statement. Let me tell you why.
When I talk to people about my days usually the first response back I get is "You pray a lot!". True, I'm always praying throughout the entire day. There are times during my work day where I stop and listen because God wants to tell me something and then I keep moving on. I think a lot of people when they hear the word prayer only think that it has to do with saying the Hail Mary or Our Father a million times. In fact I've had someone ask this question recently. "Wait, so you're telling me that you're praying all the time so you're always saying the Our Father or Hail Mary?" The short answer is no, I'm not always saying those prayers over and over. Sure I say the rosary daily but prayer is so much more than just the rosary.
I also pray in silence quite a bit during the day, more than I pray out loud or within a community. There's something I find very peaceful about contemplating a piece of scripture or a thought I had during the day and just sitting in a chair with my eyes closed, mind as quiet as I can get it, heart open and just having a conversation with God about it all.
As an example this past Tuesday I discovered that someone had used my debit card to pay a bunch of their bills. Once I had sorted it all out that night I knew I had to forgive this person and I also knew that I now had the thing I was going to contemplate that night during the 30-60 minutes of silence I observe each night. I sat in my chair and contemplated forgiveness. This was very powerful for me as my stress levels were through the roof and I just wanted to feel better at that point. During the 60 minutes I spent that night a few revelations revealed themselves to me:
- I had been contemplating forgiveness each night for the past week.
- This seemed to be the culmination all of all time spent praying about forgiveness, a test if you will. Can I walk the walk and not just thought the thought?
- Let the stress go. God will guide me and there's nothing I can do about this entire situation so just let it go.
- I now have a story to tell, a witness statement to provide to someone in the future that might be struggling with forgiveness.
If this wasn't the Holy Spirit working I don't know what is. After that hour I felt like my heart was on fire, had a smile on my face, tears in my eyes and my mind was still. 6 months ago I would have been a ball of rage for a week. Now I was back to normal in a matter of hours.
I've always lived a contemplative life, I just never realized it. I love the quiet that is found in contemplation. It draws me much closer to God and strengthens my relationship with him. I know what you're asking, surely I can't do this every morning and every night right? I try. There are some days I struggle through 30 minutes and other days where an hour is actually two or more. This keeps me humble and knowing that not every day can be perfect and that's okay.
Prayer is important to me and my spiritual life, I don't find it to be over disciplined or too regimented as a matter of fact I feel that there is no way I would make time in my day to do any of this if I didn't have discipline or a regimen I stuck to. These posts would also never get written unless I had done some sort of prayer beforehand. After some time of silence I'll feel the sudden urge to write (it's often on what I was just contemplating with God) and I'll either write some notes down if it's really late at night or I don't have a complete thought about a subject yet or I'll open my computer and just let the words pour out onto the screen.
Lastly, prayer isn't always about the length of the prayer. It's much more about your state of mind, your profession of Love for Jesus, calming your mind and opening your heart. I find that a simple prayer like "Jesus, I love you" said a few times slowly, with pauses between each one is a perfect way for me to start that period of contemplation during my days or even in the middle of the day and I need a quick reset.
Life isn't always perfect and neither is prayer but as long as your consistent with it every day you'll always be strengthening your relationship with God.