We are always being urged to pray. The following are my ideas on prayer.
If I were to follow the regime of prayer which I was required to follow in the seminary and which was expected of me for the rest of my life as a priest I would spend four hours each day in prayer.
If I were living a monastic life where prayer was the only focus of my day then that is ok.
As a parish priest working with and among people it is totally unrealistic.
Naturally, I and most other secular priests, had to abandon many, if not all, of these spiritual exercises.
We were taught that there were spiritual things or activities and profane things or activities. (Here, profane means secular, not religious, not related to God.)
Anything which was not prayer in the strict understanding of the word (for example being on your knees in church or reciting the rosary or the psalms etc.) was profane.
Even preparing people for the Sacraments and administering them could be regarded as profane and draining on our spiritual resources.
This had, and still has, a profound effect on our relationship with our God.
To keep in contact with God one had to stop doing profane things and get on ones knees to top up ones spiritual batteries with ‘real’ prayer.
This way of thinking and acting was unrealistic for secular priests (that is Diocesan Priests) but far more so for lay people.
I would even say that it had, and still has disastrous consequences for our relationship with our God. We end up thinking that there are parts of our life which involve God and most of our daily life has nothing to do with God.
The truth is that God is involver in every aspect of our lives. The truth is that evertyhing we do and say and think can be as much a prayer and involve our God as when we are celebrating Mass or praying on our knees.
Gen. ‘God saw all he had made and indeed it was very good.’
Rom. ; ‘I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself.’
It is my attitude or intention which makes something profane.
Nothing is objectively unclean. It is I who make something unclean.
I am not saying that I should not spend some time in traditional prayer. On the contrary I am saying that I can spend all my day in prayer with a little effort and forethought.
For most of us, life is an adventure of discovery. An adventure of discovery in the company of my marriage partner, my children and my grandchildren. Throughout the day my thoughts keep returning to them in one way or another, irrespective of how busy or preoccupied I am.
What I am trying to say is that if I can include my God in this family bundle; Then, I and my God worry about them. I and my God hope they are ok. I and my God look forward to meeting them in the evenings or after school or during supper together. I and my God getting them bedded down for the night. I and my God up and about to prepare breakfast and get them all off to school or to work. I and my God planning our family holiday together etc. etc. With a little effort and practise this togetherness with my God can easily extend to those I work with and meet casually during my day. In this way my whole day is a prayer. In this way my whole day or most of it is spent in the company of my God.
Formal prayer has its place in my life but only as part of my everyday life and work, which is my real prayer.
If I confine my contact with my God to the times of formal prayer then I will not be spending much time with my God.