When you’re trying to do vacation, trying to relax and let go of the usual schedules and obligations, it’s tempting to let go of prayer and other spiritual practices. After all, if you practice any form of prayer regularly, it’s probably tied to your schedule—that 15 minutes between the time you get the kids to school and you have to head for work, or the time just before bed or right after lunch. When your schedule shifts, there goes prayer, mindfulness, Bible or other spirit-focused reading.
This is unfortunate, because sometimes our off-schedule, off-routine time is the most stressful. How often has a major argument erupted while the family is on vacation trying to have a good time? How much crankier is everyone when their sleep patterns have been disrupted, when they’ve eaten too much rich food, when they’ve sprained an ankle on that hike or suffered a bad sunburn on the beach? During the school year, your 12-year-old has the benefit of friends, activities, and other adults such as teachers to keep her steady and help with her daily dramas. Out in the crowds of the theme park or back in the campground, that same child has only her family, and she’s probably not too happy about that.
Really, we’re not always at our best when on vacation. At those times, we probably need to pray more than ever. But how? Do you dare try to have some sort of family devotion? For some families, that might work, but what if it doesn’t for yours? Do you disrupt your own sleep even more by getting up earlier than everyone else so that you can do some form of prayer? Does your body keep telling you to forget the prayer—you need the rest more?
Here are three ideas for prayer on vacation. Try one or more—you never know.
1. Make gratitude your companion.
While you’re hiking, you can whisper Thank you for this place, or while you’re on the beach, Thank you for sun and water. While you’re watching one of the children splash, act silly, or settle down with a book or newfound object, whisper, Thank you for this wonderful human being you’ve loaned to us for a while. While you’re navigating crowds at the theme park: Thank you that so many people are able to spend time with their families. If the only prayer you do this summer is to say thank you—for something, every day—that’s a pretty awesome prayer.
2. Take along some simple materials to use.
I use two or three different prayer books, at different times and places. When going away for a few days, I can photocopy the pages for those days, take out the pages I need, and then throw them away when I’m finished. No more books to drag around. And, if I use an app to pray, and my phone doesn’t get a signal, a piece of paper with some prayer prompts will do just fine. A page can be folded and carried in a pocket. I can be distracted by whatever is going on around me but still pull out that paper and silently read through the Psalm or repeat the prayer written there.
3. Use some form of the Examen.
Lately, I’m doing a form of this prayer by writing briefly in a journal at night before I go to bed. I write down three items:
- Today’s grace:
- Today’s discomfort:
- Worth remembering:
Even if I’m tired, I can take three minutes to note these aspects of my day. As I write the grace, I’m thanking God for it. As I write the discomfort, I consider that the Holy Spirit and I are looking at it together. As I write what was worth remembering, I capture some key moment or conversation. I can read this page again later and delve into the grace or discomfort or memory, when I have more time and energy. But for now, I am noting this day of my life, in a tired but prayerful way. This is possible, even on a busy vacation.
If you consider this matter, even for a few moments, I’m sure you’ll think of some simple way to keep prayer intentional and meaningful during your days of vacation. In God’s eyes, every effort counts, even if you don’t think the prayer went so well.