Holding on to God all day
‘I give time to God in the morning, then I go out of my bedroom and leave him there!’.
This is a heartfelt cry which I believe is often true for many of us. Sunday worship that only lifts us for Sunday, prayer in the bedroom that stays in the bedroom, even Godspace retreat days may fail to bring God into the rest of our lives!
So what do we do? I see two ways to approach this:
Firstly, consider why our prayer doesn’t have a longer lasting effect. If our prayer is not influencing our day, perhaps it needs overhauling. Consider the point of your prayer. Is it to persuade God to achieve certain things on our behalf this day? To try and change the odds in a universe which feels stacked against us? Surely not.
I suggest we need to pray in the morning to assert our unity with God, to allow God’s presence to be the reality of our day. We pray to be drawn into relationship with the Trinity, to be open to discovering the holy and sacred in every aspect of our lives this day. We open ourselves to become more holy, a fit temple for the Holy Spirit. (if you don’t like the last paragraph, that is fine but try redrafting it in your own language; why do you think you pray?)
Do our prayers involve aspects of the day, envisaging situations that will or may arrive and considering God in them? Do we intercede only for those we feel we ought to or also for those we will encounter? If you are used to doing imaginative contemplation of Scripture, you might try imagining the day that is to come (‘the scripture of your life’), looking out for where God might ‘play a role’ in this day?
Secondly: find ways of taking your prayer time into the day.
a) Praying the examen in the midst of the day is a discreet and long-tried way of involving God in the day http://reimaginingexamen.ignatianspirituality.com/ offers various versions of the examen both as a book and as an app.
b) payg (pray as you go) is an app specifically designed for prayer on your commute to work – every-one has their phone on, why not you? https://pray-as-you-go.org/ (there are many other similar apps, find one that suits you)
c) Use prayer triggers (these might seem gimmicky, but if they help you to think about God, what is wrong with gimmicks!) such as getting in the habit of remembering God as you go through a doorway, or on a staircase (liminal spaces that cry out to be occupied by the Holy One). In mainstream Rabbinic Judaism, a prayer scroll is fixed to the doorpost of homes to fulfill the Biblical commandment to “write the words of God on the gates and doorposts of your house” (Deuteronomy 6:9), but also as a sign and reminder of the Covenant, of our love and commitment and our willingness to create a believing household . How could you echo this practice in your daily life?
d) practice what is commonly known as ‘the prayer of the heart’. See elsewhere on this site for the ‘Jesus prayer’. Gradually extend it so that your heart is praying all day long, prayer becomes the background to all you do. It sounds hard but is not, it just needs a lot of time to develop the habit.(The classic resource for this is Brother Lawrence, Practicing the presence of God’).
e) Carry a holding cross, bookmark or prayer beads that has been with you while you prayed; slip it into your pocket and finger it throughout the day, let it take you back to the feeling when you were praying.
f) use your phone wisely, what helps you as a picture, text or jingle; what other reminders can you build into the phone? Use the alarm on your phone to remind you to pray the Lord’s prayer once every two hours (or whatever works!).
g) let your morning prayer give you ideas of where to look for God in the day, eg if you have prayed for those on the street, each time you pass a beggar think ‘could that be Christ?’
h) find Christian friends with the same concern; form a prayer triplet on WhatsApp to pray for each other and to remind each other to pray. Another way to look at this is that perhaps your prayer is touching the day more than you expected, it is influencing what happens and how you respond more than you realise: ponder what your day would have been like if you hadn’t prayed! Giving thanks for God’s presence in your day (even when you haven’t been able to feel it) may be more helpful than living with the self-induced guilt that you have not let him be present.