This was my column published recently in The Catholic Weekly (under a different headline though!).
I’ve been a little obsessed lately with the idea of time management and just trying to work out how best to use my days.
Clearly most of my time is spent on physically caring for young children, and ferrying older children to and back from school, sports commitments, and other appointments. Home duties such as cooking, laundry, and cleaning up take up a lot of my daily hours. I also do some writing or related work for a few hours each week, and also try to meet up with some other mothers at some point during the week.
I know that whatever else I choose to spend my time on each day, whether I decide today to take my two youngest boys in the park, or pack away all the winter clothing, or write a 500-word article, it’s not as important as any time, no matter how small, I spend in prayer.
I’m still learning that there is enough time to do whatever I need to do, and even time to do things that aren’t necessary but I would like to do, so long as I prioritise my time properly, and the first order of the day has to be prayer.
I’m currently reading Thirsting for Prayer, the latest book by Fr Jacques Philippe, who is renowned in Catholic circles and will be visiting Sydney next month.
I’ve been taught that 30 minutes is the minimum length of time needed for mental (or personal) prayer, but if you can’t manage that than to pray in whatever time you have; Fr Phillipe recommends 20 minutes as the absolute minimum, because it can take a while to settle into an interior prayerful space.
But, I find, that for a busy person like me, that what he says next in this book is true: “God can give someone who can spend only 10 minutes a day in prayer but is taken up with work that is God’s will, as much as he gives a monk who prays five hours a day.” This includes all the graces necessary to get through the day peacefully, including enough physical energy to do everything.
I have no doubt that in looking after the house and children, and trying to keep some energy left over for my husband when he comes home as well, that I’m doing work which is God’s will, even if it seems not terribly exciting or important in worldly terms.
And sometimes, when things are really crazy, like when everyone is sick or there is some other family drama happening, there have been times when just a couple of minutes of focussed prayer have been memorable and very fruitful.
It seems to me that for this reason it’s always better if possible to pray in the morning, especially the Our Father because of the line, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, which surely refers to the Eucharist, but also to every need that we have for the day at hand.
As Jesus promised, do not worry about tomorrow, today’s problems are sufficient. And God will provide.
Fr Jacques Phillipe promotes prayer for its own sake, because we are made for relationship with God, and this includes an intimate personal friendship as well as our communal relationship as members of the Church.
But he also promotes it for its benefits – and one is that it diffuses ‘needless anxiety’. How different would our society be if everyone was able to diffuse all of their needless anxiety and only concerned themselves with what really mattered and needed their focussed attention that day?
How much happier we would be, if we let Jesus really walk with us through our days and accepted our daily bread as we needed it?
Many writers and happiness experts teach that forming a habit of gratitude is a way to authentic happiness, and they are right. But even more than a grateful attitude it is a personal, intimate, ongoing friendship with the living God which makes us truly happy.
How are your days going lately? I’ve been a little less sociable online and in real life than usual because I’ve been trying to write a draft of a novel in 30 days. It looks like I will get it finished by my November 30 deadline – it’s been an interesting experience!