As my family and friends who read this blog already know I was raised Catholic. I stopped considering myself Catholic over a decade ago because I believe the RCC to be in error on a great number of issues. However, I do think that the Catholic Church has managed to hold on to some old wisdoms about and tools for the Christian faith which most Protestants aren’t well aware of. An example of this would be some of the old, stuffy prayers which Evangelicals in particular tend to scoff at. While praying from the heart is essential, using a written prayer can be like giving a lover a love poem written by Shakespeare or Elizabeth Barret Browning rather than writing your own. You are saying that this is what expresses the desires of my heart – even though you didn’t personally compose it. (This understanding of the benefits of Catholic practices is probably why the emerging church’s experimentation with various doxologies resonates with me as well.)
My favorite example of this is a prayer which we used to pray every morning at my Catholic High School. At the center of this prayer is the idea of consecrating all of our actions as offering and prayer to God. I love this because it frames our whole existence, even the little things as being an offering to God – there is no “God stuff” and “Other stuff”. It’s all wrapped up together. This can be a really hard thing to wrap our heads and hearts around, which is why I think that praying it daily for 4 years had a very good effect on my spiritual life. Over time, I believe that God’s response to this prayer was to help me internalize this notion of continual offering and even communion with Him through all the acts of my day.
This became clear to me after I noticed how often my Evangelical friends would talk of struggling to find time to be with God. They saw themselves as too busy and struggling to spend time in prayer. (I am speaking here of something different than St. John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul where the believer seeks God and can’t seem to find Him.) In their minds, reading scriptures and concentrating on prayer were how we spend time with God. Having spells of not doing these things (which I am not advocating, BTW), meant not spending time with God.
After hearing this idea numerous times from people, I had to stop and ask why this seemingly common notion sounded so foreign to me. In prayer, God lead me back to this prayer, which I internalized over time as the reason why I have such a strong sense of living with God and for God, but never separate from God – even while washing dishes and running errands. So, I thought I would share this prayer here. If you struggle with the idea that you can’t seem to find time or discipline to spend time with God, perhaps taking a few minutes in the morning to say this prayer, asking God to help you internalize it would be helpful to you as well.
Eternal and ever loving Father,
I offer you everything I do this day:
My work, my prayers, my play, all my thoughts,
my time with family and friends,
my hours of relaxation,
my difficulties, problems, distresses,
which I shall try to bear with patience.
Join these, my gifts, to the unique offering
which Jesus Christ, your Son, renews today in the Eucharist.
Grant, I pray, that guided by the Holy Spirit
and united to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
my life this day may be of service to you,
and to all you send into my life,
so that we can continue to respond with love
to the mystery of your call,
to be your special people. Amen.
Leader: Heart of Jesus burning with love for us
Response: Enflame our hearts with love for you.