|The iPhone of course has a prayer list app|
I have of late been suffering from what Zen Buddhists call “monkey mind” when it comes to the time of prayer. It’s not that I don’t pray, or don’t switch off screens and sound;it’s just that my mind strolls or darts from thing to thing, and I am finding it harder to focus.
This is annoying as I often get much refreshment, comfort and guidance from prayer.
I am reminded of what Richard Foster wrote, “At times, prayer can seem not just a waste of time, but a waste of self.” When your mind is distracted, and it’s harder to focus on Christ, it can feel like waiting at an interminable red light, or queue. And the green light is when the timer goes off.
I was brought up Catholic in a boarding school run by missionary nuns, who were regular in prayer, which was timed. They believed (and I believe this is a Catholic belief) that to sustain a spiritual life for the long haul, one should not prolong prayer when it seems sweet, or cut it short when it seems dreary. So I set a timer for half an hour (to be followed by an hour of reading, meditating and sometimes blogging on the four Gospels, in order), and sometimes as I finally get calm and focussed—the timer goes. Drat. I linger a bit longer, of course, but not long.
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Prayer Lists. I used them as a new Christian, and then, as I became better friends with Christ, abandoned them. Imagine sitting with my husband, Roy with a timer (We do sometimes use a timer when we are busy, and want to chat—or when we are mad at each other and want to give each person 3 uninterrupted minutes to explain why they might have married the worst person in the world. But if it’s a rendezvous we’re enjoying, we often ignore the timer, and if the other person gets all his facts wrong (pronoun used deliberately) in a epic fight, we sometimes ignore the timer too.)
However, imagine using a list in a conversation with Roy. Adoration- Roy, you’re handsome. I love your beard. Contrition–Sorry, not up to much of late. Thanksgiving–Thanks for cooking roast duck last night. Supplication–Please sort out the garage. Sorry, can’t go on, there goes the timer.
Actually, it doesn’t sound too bad. And these things need to be said. I had abandoned lists because they seemed mechanical and boring. However, we were talking about it in pastorate last week, and people said that it was the only way they could pray faithfully about things. They talked about staggered lists, different things for different days, as the way to not get bored when you need to pray persistently for people/things/situations.
So that is what I am going to do: have a list, different for each day, so that I do get to pray and move intractable situations in my own life, in the lives of those I care for, and in my world.