I honestly don’t know what happens to my time. I’m retired. I don’t volunteer (except with my grandkids). I belong to virtually no clubs or organizations that take up my time. And yet, the days go by and I find I haven’t done a single one of the things that I have committed to myself that I would do. For example, two weeks ago, I ran into a friend whom I haven’t seen for a while, and promised her with great confidence that I would call her in a few days to arrange for us to have lunch or coffee. Haven’t done it. Nope. Sure haven’t.
Unfortunately, the same is true of my prayer life. Or perhaps I should say my so-called prayer life, as it is one of the things that gets pushed aside way more than it should. I know you’re all thinking right now, for heaven’s sake, the woman is constantly talking about her prayer life and how it should be better. Poop, or get off the pot. (That is what my dad would have said, although he wouldn’t have used the word poop in the sentence. In fact, he probably never used the word poop in his life.)
Praying kind of confuses me, I will admit that freely. I will ask God for something, and then I am unsure if I should ask again. I remind myself about the gospel reading in which Jesus says that we should nag God (my words, not his) like the woman who nagged the judge for the favor. I wonder why God should listen to me when others might be praying for the exact opposite. I used to wonder about this when I was in high school and we would pray for a victory in the football game. Was God a Scotus Shamrock fan?
The fact is I’m probably overthinking the whole thing. While miracles do happen, most of the time when we ask for something specific – winning the lottery or curing an illness – there isn’t a flash of light and subsequent wealth or health. I guess that’s because prayer isn’t a magic trick. It’s a conversation with God. And good conversations take time and develop slowly. They also require both talking and listening.
Yesterday, our Mass celebrant told us something that resonated with me. So much so, in fact, that I dug around to find a pencil and write what he said in the margin of my prayer book. He said when you find yourself distracted from listening to, say, his sermon, perhaps that distraction is God talking to you. Pay attention to your distractions, he told us.
I gave that a lot of thought after he said that, during which time I was distracted from his homily, I’m afraid. Maybe that was God’s wish, however. Maybe thinking about a conversation with God was more important that listening to the sermon.
I tend to obsess about things, especially when they are things that relate to my family. While I don’t think God wants me to obsess about things over which I have no control, maybe my distractions and worries are just God’s way of reminding me that he is not only listening, but actually is handling things, thank you very much.
Just like when Peter was comfortably walking on the water, following Jesus’ example in St. Matthew’s gospel, but started overthinking it all (like I tend to do) and began to sink. Save me Lord, he said, and Jesus reached out his hand.
Perhaps that should be the prayer I say, not once, but over and over every day: Save me Lord. Maybe that’s the way to start my conversation with God.
And this week, I PROMISE I’m going to give my friend a call.
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