Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Ordinary Lives Can Become Prayers

Published August 23, 2007

“So you go to work, then you go home and write … and is that it?,” my sister asked me.

Somewhat embarrassed at how dull my life sounded, all I could do was mutter a quick, “Yes.”

I have to admit my life seems mighty boring. I get up at 6 each day and head to the theology library, where I spend four hours quietly processing the new books.

Most afternoons, I come home and write.

Mine is not a glamorous life, but I am happy with it because it has become for me a kind of prayer.

So much has been written about centering prayer, which requires sitting quietly and gently dispelling distracting thoughts with a simple word, like “Jesus” or “peace.”

I have tried this kind of prayer myself, but I must confess that, no matter how diligently I practice it, I can’t seem to stick with it.

My mind is so cluttered with memories, musings, longings—and even snippets of popular songs—that sitting for any length of time, without doing anything, is unbearable.

I have found another way to discover peace in the midst of a rather harried world.

For me, sitting at the computer with my cup of tea beside me does the trick: My busy, chatterbox mind finally shuts up, and the worries, regrets and longings tiptoe away.

Other folks may take different roads to arrive at the same calm destination. Some do needlework, bake cookies or plant seeds in the garden, while others saw wood and hammer nails.

I have tried other activities like crocheting, but inevitably, I feel like I am working on an assembly line and have to produce results in warp speed time. Which means that the hobby soon turns into an obsession.

So, on the days when I feel troubled and edgy, the “cure” is always the same: Go downstairs, turn on the computer and start writing.

Writing touches my soul in a mysterious way, just as prayer does. Often, when an idea starts taking shape on the screen, I feel there is some unknown person nudging me along to the next word.

Mysterious things happen at the computer. I may sit down to write a letter, and instead churn out a poem or two. Or I may be intent on tweaking an essay, but then find myself shaping an adventure story for my nephew.

Prayers have that same aura of mystery. There is that unknown person in the background, gently reminding me not to forget the niece who struggles with the blues or the childhood friend bedeviled by kidney disease.

Writing is more than a hobby for me. It is the activity that gives shape to my life. No matter what happens, if I can just write about it, I know I will be all right.

Sometimes, though, I do envy those who knit or garden. I suspect these folks do not struggle with something that writers contend with—that agonizing malady called writer’s block.

Any writer can attest that it is painful to sit down at the computer when it seems you have nothing to say. You find yourself staring out the window and hoping that a squirrel will come down a tree to entertain you for a while.

Still, you know you have to break through the ice and forge ahead. In short, you have to have faith that God will send you some words.

The same goes for praying. Sometimes it seems that God is putting me on hold for days on end. I have to summon up every last smidgen of faith to realize that even when he seems remarkably absent, he is still there.

My sister, of course, was right. A writer’s life can seem rather boring, but so can other lives as well.

The mother may cast a weary eye at the constant pile of laundry. The teacher may long to shred the mountain of unmarked spelling tests.

Still, in the heart of any routine, we can discover something unexpected and mysterious. It is a moment of peace, like the gentle center in the eye of a storm.

This peace comes from realizing we are following God’s plan for our lives. We are doing the things He has called us to do, whether that means feeding a toddler or tilling the earth.

In God’s eyes, each of us is living the greatest adventure of all times. It is the life that he planned just for us. And it is our prayer back to him.