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PRAYER ON THE GO for busy people Raymond Edwards
All booklets are published thanks to the generosity of the supporters of the Catholic Truth Society
Contents Busy-ness and chaos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 What is prayer? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Pray often . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Some prayers we might say . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 “Arrow prayers” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 A reminder . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 A prayer in conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Endnotes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
All rights reserved. First published 2019 by The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, 40-46 Harleyford Road London SE11 5AY. Tel: 020 7640 0042 / Fax: 020 7640 0046. www.ctsbooks.org Copyright © 2019 The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society.
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ISBN 978 1 78469 603 0
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O Lord, thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget thee, do not thou forget me.
Q Sir Jacob Astley, before the Battle of Edgehill, 23rd October 1642.
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Busy-ness and chaos
If you are reading this, it’s likely two things are true: you are very busy; and you want to find a way to pray. We have too much to do, all of us: work, children, domestic chores, family obligations, the perpetual barrage of information and messages – emails, WhatsApp, social media – always more to be done than there are hours in the day. All of this, and now we’re supposed to make time to pray as well? Don’t be ridiculous. Obviously, I have no time to pray. But busy-ness and the chaos of the daily round isn’t just a problem of time management. It is a problem of meaning. Amidst the chaos, we have fears, hopes, needs, doubts, wants, gratitude, joy, bewilderment. We all of us, in those occasional moments when things stop, ask ourselves: what is all this about? What is the point? What does any of this mean? And, for the even moderately convinced Christian (or Jew, or Muslim) there is another lurking question: where is God in all this? Christians do not think life is meaningless, or that suffering, despair, misery and death are the ultimate truth about the world and our life in it. We do not deny that death is real, and is heartbreaking, or that suffering
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is an evil, or that often life seems cruel or pointless. But we do not believe that these things are all there is. We believe that God is stronger than death, and that he is with us in all of these events, even the most horrible. We believe, in fact, that God entered into our human life in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, a man like us who lived two thousand years ago, but who in a real but incomprehensible way was also truly God: God-withus. He was God walking with his people, a living and breathing sign that God is On Our Side. Jesus was tortured and put to death, but by taking these things – pain, abandonment and death – upon himself, he changed them forever. He broke death into pieces, and rose again to a life that was richer and more full than the one he had laid down. And this new life – this resurrected life, this life-beyond-the-tomb, this life that death cannot master – he offers to us, now, in all the little deaths and sufferings we experience day by day. Death and suffering are still real, but they are not meaningless. God is there, giving us a life that cannot be destroyed by them. Christians believe that just as Jesus took on death and suffering for our sake – and thus transformed them into a means of giving life to the world – so we, too, can present our own sufferings and pain and loss to God, trusting that in some unknown way he will take them to himself and use them to bring life to the world. At the heart of the world, and of our life in it, is a God who is love, and who loves us. 6
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These are large claims, and may seem ridiculous. But they are what the Christian Church believes to be true. At their core is the unshakeable conviction that God is with us: God is on our side. He is our loving Father, and he will not abandon or neglect us. So then, where is God in all the chaos and bother and confusion we experience day by day, all our worries and fears and hopes and joys? Well, God is in the chaos and the busy-ness – he is with us, walks (or runs, or drives) with us: so we should turn to him, turn our mind, our attention, our heart to him, throughout the day. This is what we mean by prayer. Prayer is holding up to God all the events we experience, all we feel and want and fear, all our joys and sorrows and worries, knowing he is with us, and cares for us. Living in the daily presence of God isn’t reserved for “religious professionals” like monks and nuns. God’s life, eternal unquenchable life, is offered to all of us now. So, we find God by praying throughout the course of our daily business, whatever it is. God speaks to us in the events, in our feelings, needs, desires, and through those we meet. We need to accept, indeed welcome, these events and feelings as God’s will for us now, in this moment. How, then, do we make prayer part of our already too busy lives? The Jewish people have prayers and blessings for all the events of the day – eating, drinking, washing their hands, rising from sleep, lying down in bed at night –
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blessings that remind them, in all their daily tasks, that God is in all these things, that all comes from his hand as a gift, that he may be praised for small things as much as for great: we bless God for coffee, and for the birth of a child; God sees our joys and answers our needs both small and great. This habit of having words of prayer, known by heart, woven into the daily fabric of our lives, is a profound example of how prayer may be an integral part of even the busiest day. We should say grace before meals, aloud if we can; and we can thank God in silence for a cup of coffee drunk on the run, or a sandwich eaten at a desk. We can say a quick prayer before leaving home, or starting a car journey, or entering a tedious or important meeting or interview. The more we do this, the less we need to think about doing it. It is as automatic for me to say a quick prayer before leaving the house as it is to check I have my keys. My experience is that the busier I am, the more I need to intersperse my day with brief moments of prayer. We ask God to help us â€“ to give us words, and mercy towards, or patience with, those we meet or talk to; but also to help us welcome the events he sends us, and see his hand and his word in these events.
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What is prayer?
The ‘Penny Catechism’ says, “Prayer is the raising up of the mind and heart to God.”1 We can raise our mind and heart to God wherever we are; it takes only a moment, a closing of the eyes, a word or phrase called silently to mind. A common misconception is that we need to be at peace before we can pray; so, if we’re distracted by worries and fears and the preoccupations of daily life, we think we cannot pray. This is to put the cart before the horse. We need to pray in the midst of our worries and distractions, in fact to make them the subject of our prayer: to give them over to God, by holding them up to him in prayer. He may then give us peace, and acceptance of our situation with all its difficulties; or he may act to take our difficulties and problems away; or, perhaps, he may leave us in our perplexity. But however God responds to us, we need to resolve to see this response as his will for us in this moment. If we can do this, then we may find his peace.2
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John Henry Newman puts this very well: God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do his work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments. Therefore, I will trust him. Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what he is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, he knows what he is about.3 We need to pray as we can, from the situation we are in, and be honest about our reactions to our situation – which may be anger, or bafflement, or discouragement, or fear. We do not need to pretend with God. Holiness is God’s work in us, not something we achieve for ourselves. So do not be afraid to pray. Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that 10
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I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not even daring to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”. This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. (Lk 18:10-14) A tax collector, remember, was an outcast, a public sinner, a collaborator with the Roman occupiers; whilst Pharisees were not sanctimonious villains, but sincere and careful observers of the Law of Moses, profuse in good works. But God looks at the heart: to pray, we need honesty, not self-congratulation. We ought to pray in our doubts and difficulties, in fact we should especially pray, even if prayer itself seems a pointless soliloquy, our shouting into the void of an empty and meaningless universe. God, the saints tell us, looks kindly on such prayers. They have a long history: “Our span is seventy years, or eighty for those who are strong; and most of these are emptiness and pain” says the Psalmist (Ps 89:10). Praying is not a technique for regulating our minds and feelings. Sometimes, we pray for something (humility, say, or peace) and then busily try to work up the feeling of it in ourselves by dint of will. This is to get things all wrong. Ask, and God will send us what we pray for, perhaps through an event. Prayer is not selfhypnosis; it is a conversation.
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We should remember, of course, that praying like this is only one part of the spiritual life of an adult Christian. We should, as we are able, frequent the sacraments, especially the Sunday Eucharist; and we may find other forms of praying helpful, like the Rosary or Eucharistic Adoration. We should pray in the morning and at night, perhaps using the Divine Office or another form of set prayers. A book like the Simple Prayer Book may be very helpful here. We might also think about the long-established spiritual practice of â€œoffering upâ€?: that is, resolving to accept some suffering or inconvenience, great or small, and ask God to use our acceptance to heal the world, or perhaps to ask for some specific favour for ourselves or for another. Most days have their share of inconveniences; even the most trivial can in this way become something very different, and certainly not meaningless.
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