It was just a few years ago now that I retired from my full time employment with the Fire Brigade. I remember when I retired lots of people told me that I’d now have a lot more time to be doing things. I mentally made a list of all those jobs that I had been putting off, with the intention that they would soon be tackled. Somehow however, I think the list has increased rather than getting smaller, so where has that time gone? Why haven’t I been able to achieve those and other projects with that new found freedom? I suppose it is down to how we view our time.
The reality is of course that there are still just 24 hours in a day, and I don’t really have anymore actual time. The difference comes in how I am using that time that is available to me. The time I have, where I can choose what I do. There are things that I need to do, sleep, eat, etc… but pretty much I can say which way it goes. Work, including travelling to and from it, took up most of my week and for most people that is the norm. So take out the working, travelling, sleeping and eating, we are left with a small amount of time in which we can fit in all of the other demands of everyday life.
A book I was reading recently, suggested that to be effective in prayer, I would need to set aside certain times of the day to be able to concentrate solely on spending that time with God. I should have a set aside space in which I could create the right atmosphere, and it should be somewhere that I wouldn’t be interrupted. Sounded great – but how many of us can actually achieve that ideal. I find that in the reality of everyday life, in the mix of all the different things I’m involved in, I’m not disciplined enough to be able to have such a routine.
So instead I set myself boundaries within which I try my best to stay and be a bit balanced. In the rush of the morning in a family house with everything that entails, including getting out by a certain time, Morning Prayer of the church sometimes comes a bit later in the schedule – but my boundary is that I will recite it whilst we are still in the am of the day! It used to be that my morning prayer space on the way to work would be to pull over in a quiet side street in the car.
For me it is also the same with spending time doing some spiritual or scripture reading. Little and often works in my lifestyle, and that I think is the key to the dilemma of how to fit specific ‘God time’ into my day. It is worth every so often just taking a couple of minutes to think about what our spending time focused on God looks like?
Whilst we might be tempted to use the argument that God is with me all the time, we should still acknowledge that, as in any relationship, we need to spend specific time, just the two of us. That in turn asks us to consider how we can balance the demands of our hectic lives and our desire to maintain that relationship. It is different and unique to each person, which is why some of the books are helpful as starting points, but not necessarily strict guides.
It is also important to consider what we mean by spending time with God. We accept that through our lives we should be trying to imitate and bring Christ to others. To me this in itself is also part of our prayer relationship. One thing that every parish needs is more people to give a little time to help achieve the outward mission of the Church here on earth. So much goes on behind the scenes, almost an unseen ministry, but only gets done because of people giving time. The idea that doing is praying, is one that is often overlooked.
If after considering what time I give to prayer, I think I might be able to dedicate a bit more, perhaps then giving time is the answer. Everything has to be done in balance, and how I personally juggle the jigsaw of the way I pray into my life is unique to me. The question is more about how do I manage my prayer time, rather than, can I manage to give time to prayer?
Deacon Ian Black