I think we can agree that some children’s books are both timeless and could be termed as classics. I was recently involved in one of those discussions that found us talking about our favourite books from either our own, or our children’s childhood. The well known ones such as Paddington, Thomas the Tank Engine and various titles from Enid Blyton were amongst the popular choices from our own childhood. When it came to books for our children, especially when they were younger, top of the list were the likes of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Gruffalo, The Tiger Who Came To Tea and Dear Zoo. What would your memories be?
However, there was one title that made me smile, and was a particular favourite of ours. ‘Five Minutes Peace’, by Jill Murphy, is about a mum in a busy family, who dreams of having a few minutes to herself. A time to relax and unwind without being disturbed. Just a couple of moments doing what she wanted to do for herself, not having to put others first.
As I was thinking about this I tried to imagine what myself and others might want to use our own opportunity of five minutes peace for? A cup of tea or coffee with no one else around? Reading a book? Sitting listening to some music? The sounds of nature, birds, the wind, the sea? Or even just sitting in my favourite chair staring blankly at nothing out of the window (unfortunately I’m likely to doze off with this one!!!!) Whatever would be your preference, these are important chances to just ease off, re-set and recharge our batteries. We all need those moments – even those ultra busy people who never seem to sit still for a minute!
So, how many readers were expecting me to write that these would be superb chances to grab a few moments with the Lord in prayer? Yes of course it would be, and if we can achieve this that would be wonderful, however if we need those ‘down’ moments wouldn’t it be better to perhaps purposely put aside one or two of those five minutes each day when we could concentrate on focusing on time with the Lord?
But, what can we achieve in five minutes of prayer? What would you recommend?
For each of us it will be different. Some may turn to a familiar set of spoken prayers, others may decide that a decade of the rosary suits them best, others may have a prayer book they turn to, or perhaps a favourite text from scripture.
Or how about one of these suggestions.
Set myself a challenge to read more scripture. One chapter a day can soon get us reading various parts of the Old or New Testament that we aren’t that familiar with. We don’t even need to carry around a big book with us – how many of us now have the whole Bible conveniently downloaded onto a phone or tablet?
At the end of the day, just a few minutes is the ideal opportunity, to review how the day has gone. I might use a formal Examination of Conscience, or I might just consider how the day has gone. Do I feel that I have truly been a disciple of Christ in my life today? Did I bring Him to others? What could I do better tomorrow?
Or, I could set myself some questions, that will help me to concentrate on being with the Lord:
What am I thankful for today?
What am I sorry for today?
What troubles me today?
What could I do better today or tomorrow?
Any questions that help us to consider my life are a very useful aid to prayer, particularly if I want to centre the prayer on my relationship with God.
But perhaps the hardest five minutes is just being at peace with God. Complete quiet and stillness. Have I been able to just sit and listen to what God is trying to say to me. Any conversation, which is part of prayer, is a two way process. Sometimes I’m doing the talking, and sometimes I’m doing the listening – when did I last just take the time to listen, to consider what God might be wanting to say to me? If I can get into a habit of just spending a few minutes with a clear mind, open to listening to what God wants to say to me, instead of telling myself I know what God wants to say to me, then I might find some surprising results.
This all sounds fantastic when written down, but I’m very good at making excuses and finding other ‘more important’ things to do with my time. We all like to think we are productive people, but sitting down for a ‘God gap’ doesn’t necessarily tick that box in our mind or busy schedule.
It looks then as if I need to find an extra 10 – 15 minutes in my day. Five Minutes Peace for me and 5 -10 minutes extra for the Lord. Will I manage it – I don’t know, but it would be nice to think that others might be trying the same too.
Deacon Ian Black