January 12, 2007

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Prayer: Each of us must decide when to pray

John F. Fink(Twelfth in a series)

It’s probably obvious that each individual must decide for himself or herself when the best time of the day is for prayer.

Perhaps early morning is a good time, but that probably isn’t true for young parents busy with getting their children fed and ready for school. Nevertheless, I know parents who get up early enough in the mornings to pray before the children get up.

Nobody is too busy to start the day, even before getting out of bed, with a simple, “Good morning, Jesus. Everything I do today will be for you.” That might be followed with the more formal Morning Offering, offering Jesus all your prayers, works, joys and sufferings of the day.

Those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours will say morning, daytime, evening and night prayers, plus the Office of Readings. Others make it a habit to say their favorite prayers or meditate early in the morning. That’s also a good time to consider what tasks, transactions and occasions for serving God you may meet on this day.

Some people find late afternoon, before dinner, a good time for prayer. I generally agree with C. S. Lewis that “no one in his senses, if he has any power of ordering his own day, would reserve his chief prayers for bedtime—obviously the worst possible hour for any action which needs concentration. The trouble is that thousands of unfortunate people can hardly find any other.”

Prayer before bedtime, though, is important, and good parents have always used bedtime to help their children learn to pray. The Church encourages us to make an examination of conscience at bedtime followed by an Act of Contrition. And just as parents teach their children, it’s a good time to pray prayers of intercession for relatives and friends. We then beg Our Lady, our guardian angel and the saints to watch over us.

But, of course, we can pray at any other time of the day. That’s where aspirations, ejaculatory prayers and good thoughts come in. I read a book a few years ago in which various people described how they pray. Many of them wrote that they have formed the habit of saying short ejaculations when something occurs during the day. After reading that, I formed the habit of breathing a quick “Come, Holy Spirit” before answering the telephone, asking the Holy Spirit to help me with whatever the caller is calling about.

All of this goes along with what St. John Chrysostom wrote: “It is possible to offer fervent prayer even while walking in public or strolling alone, or seated in your shop, … while buying or selling, … or even while cooking.”

In the end, of course, it gets back to St. Paul’s admonition to “pray always.” As Origen wrote: “He ‘prays without ceasing’ who unites prayer to works and good works to prayer. Only in this way can we consider as realizable the principle of praying without ceasing.” †

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