When Do You Pray?

frustrated man

So, when do you pray? Think about that for a few moments.

Most of us pray when we feel in desperate need of help or rescue. At the apex of anxiety over a teenager who is two hours late getting home or the car that’s acting up on the expressway in the middle of a downpour, we send our most blunt and honest prayers.

At the other end of the experience spectrum, we utter prayers of wonder and gratitude when the baby is born, the test results come back negative, or we find ourselves looking over a glistening lake or lush valley. Our awe needs a target!

But I believe that most of us do not send to God the minor daily eruptions of heart, soul, mind, and body. We think we should be able to manage that stuff on our own. Why should I tell God about my little anxieties, my aching joints, or frustration over a project that won’t behave?

What we forget is that most of us are conquered not by the major events and momentous problems but by the needling, constant, daily challenges. When someone in the family gets horribly ill, I shift into high coping mode; we all do. When my marriage feels threatened by major life changes, I know enough to seek counseling, because this is a big deal, and I know I need reinforcements.

But do I pray when I’m irritated at a loved one over something that’s not such a big deal? Actually, I avoid prayer when I’m angry at my husband, because I feel that I’m misbehaving and don’t deserve God’s attention. Or if I’m bored at work, more tired than usual, cannot organize my thoughts around multiple matters, or spend an inordinate amount of time in bathrooms because something has wrecked my system—shouldn’t I be able to handle it? Isn’t it terribly self-absorbed of me to send heavenward my responses to daily life?

I suppose I would be self-absorbed if I prayed to God about every small thing with the expectation that God would fix every small thing. But prayer is not so much about fixing situations as it is about developing my relationship with the Divine. Prayer works on my habits of emotion and response. Prayer takes me to the place of trusting God with my whole life, knowing that God never promised to rescue me from trial and inconvenience. Prayer builds my interior world in such a way that, regardless of today’s details, I will continue in the direction of Christlikeness.

So, when do you pray? I hope you pray all the time, about everything. I’m trying to do that. If we understand prayer as relationship, as holy conversation, then we will naturally talk with God through whatever is happening.

A question to ponder: When am I most likely to avoid prayer? Can I talk with God about this?

About Vinita Hampton Wright 136 Articles

Vinita Hampton Wright has served as senior editor at Loyola Press for 16 years and recently became managing editor of the trade books department. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places with HarperOne, Days of Deepening Friendship and The Art of Spiritual Writing for Loyola Press, and most recently, The St. Teresa of Avila Prayer Book for Paraclete Press. Vinita is a student and practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, and from 2009 to 2015 she blogged at Days of Deepening Friendship. For the past few years, she has co-led small groups through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three cats, and a dog. In her “spare” time these days, she is working on her next novel.

10 Comments on When Do You Pray?

  1. Vinta,
    Thank you for this insightful and courageous post. Your thoughts and questions have led me to reflect most certainly on how I do or don’t pray in those big and small moments which occurr all to regularly each day. I have generally (reflexively) reflected on them throughout my life but it is the temerity of my prayerful reflection and response that your post and questions have awakened in me. Your candor has helped me connect the impact of three desease related traumas in my early teenage years and their feelings of utter helplessness/dependence on others, to my self-protective prayer with the Creator. (and persons in my life). Much to reflect upon. Many thanks.
    Rob

  2. Vinita, this reflection is very powerful for it pertains to our everyday lives and directs us to think about who God is in our lives. Ever since I can remember I have gone to God with pretty well all of my concerns but, at times I feel that I shouldn’t be so dependent on God. Then I think about Saint Paul telling us to pray always and I know that it is alright to bring all things to our Lord; in fact if we are to have a close relationship with God, then we need to share everything – not so that God will fix things but to come in humility and gratitude that God is there for us. I will be sharing this reflection with the RCIA at our parish as we have just been discussing prayer. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for your honesty in your posts, VInita.
    I, too, feel unworthy to talk to God or say prayers when I’ve fallen out with my husband because I feel like a hypocrite. Yet I still try to pray, for I believe I am a better person with God than without him. I also realise it’s ok to be angry and annoyed with God. Funny you should mention car. Parked outside Church yesterday and after Mass had a flat tyre. Husband unable to get to work today so lost a day’s pay. Not sure if this was deliberate to his car But cannot prove anything.
    On the gratitude side, we had had a nice drive out in the sunshine earlier in the day and we’re lucky not to be on a motorway.
    Peace.

  4. When am I most likely to avoid prayer? When I am at a low ebb, physically shattered and feeling guilty for not living up to my expectations of how I should be living; when doubts creep in and I start questioning what I really believe about God’s judgement and forgiveness; when I feel like I have let my prayer life slide and then it’s really hard to pick it up again.
    But I thank God for my faithful friends’ powerful prayers at these times that carry me and for my Guardian Angel who keeps nudging me to get back and try again.

  5. Vinita,
    Thank you for your posts.
    Both Old Testament and New Testament scriptures remind us to always pray. St. Ignatius reminds us to find God in all things and at all moments. Daily family life, work and prayer all should be a ceaseless flow of prayer. However, I think the time that I am most likely not to dialogue with God is when I mess-up. Not sinful actions, rather, those mis-connects of daily life: I forget to pay and bill, I put off putting gas in the car, or, I avoid a pleasent moment of contact with a friend or stranger. Why do I forget or put off simple items? These are now moments to reflect on during my daily Exmen.

  6. When do I not pray? I am more likely not to pray when things are going well. “Help me” can seem more authentic than “thank you”. I do know the words in Scripture about the Holy Spirit interceding for us touches my heart with its truth.

  7. Jesus , through the most pure heart of
    Mary, I offer you all my thoughts, words, joys & sufferings of this day; for all the intentions of thy divine heart! My morning prayer…( I must admit , I sometimes ask if they could in crease the JOY and go a bit lighter on the suffering part)AMDG

  8. Ah, the “best” time to pray … When I’m annoyed, anxious, or just plain grumpy?When traffic is stopped for no reason? The light goes red just when I’m the next one to turn? I’ve always thought that I had to feel holy to pray, had to spend a lot of time getting to that point. Trying to do it the “right” way. Maybe prayer happens in a moment. Intention. Taking a breath. Relaxing my shoulders. Remembering to be still and know that He is God.

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