Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

‘Stop one minute seven times a day’

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published March 4, 2021

“What are you giving up for Lent?” is a common question right now, but prayer is another aspect of Lent that sometimes gets short shrift.

And although prayer sometimes seems like a mysterious action everyone else is performing better than I am, Lent gives me hope that maybe I’ll finally “get it.” Here are some ways I’m approaching prayer this season.

First, I’m trying to say simple prayers throughout the day to keep my heart attuned to God. Frankly, I’m stunned by how much time I waste every day.

“Oh, I’m just going to do a quick check of my friends’ posts,” I assure myself and then thirty minutes go by. These minutes are devoted to looking at funny videos of cats and babies—and don’t forget Chunk the groundhog, who has thousands of followers.

For many of us, the day rushes by in a blur of activities and we mumble a prayer before falling asleep. But what if we stopped during the day and turned our hearts toward God?

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom in “Beginning to Pray” writes, “If you think of the number of empty minutes in a day when we are doing something because we are afraid of emptiness and of being alone with ourselves, you will realize there are plenty of short periods which could belong to us and to God at the same time.”

Father Donald Haggerty, the retreat master for the Missionaries of Charity, and author of “Conversion,” tells the story of a man who became a monk in his forties. He entered a Trappist monastery, but was disappointed because his fellow monks didn’t seem deeply prayerful.

When this man became the abbot, he made a crucial change with a simple admonition about time: “Stop one minute seven times a day and offer your life completely to God—with a serious act of love for God.”

It wasn’t long, Father Haggerty says, before the abbot “had a monastery full of very contemplative, very prayerful monks!”

Second, I’m trying to be less concerned about distractions when I pray, since they’re part of being human. Benedictine Abbot John Chapman suggests we take distractions in stride: “Look down at your soul with a sort of amused pity as a little wriggling worm that won’t keep still.”

It helps at times to notice what the distractions are. If we’re sitting in church, casting a critical eye on someone’s outfit, we can ask God to bless that person. If we hear a baby crying, we can thank God for this new life.

Sometimes we feel we can’t pray because of exhaustion, illness, depression or worry. Then our prayer can be admitting this to God and just being there with him.

In “Spiritual Letters” Abbot Chapman says the best kind of prayer is when “we seem unable to do anything…If then we throw ourselves on God and stay contentedly before him.”

Finally, I’m realizing silence itself can be an exquisite prayer. Fortunately, we needn’t join a cloistered monastery to discover quiet, because we can find a place at home to bask in God’s love and listen for his voice.

Metropolitan Bloom writes about an elderly woman who asked him how to pray. He suggested she sit in her room each morning, knitting in silence for fifteen minutes.

After a while she came back to him and reported that “The silence had a density, a richness, and it began to pervade me.” She added, “At the heart of the silence there was Him who is all stillness, all peace, all poise.”

And this, of course, is the heart of prayer, which is based on Jesus’ words “Peace be with you.” When we stop during the day to remember him and when we seek him in silence, even the busiest life can be blessed with peace.

Artwork by Jef Murray ( Lorraine’s email address is