A Place to Pray

garden chair

In Loyola Press’s recently issued children’s book, Dear Pope Francis, a child asks the Pope where he likes to pray. His answer is that there are a few places he prays regularly (at his desk, or in the church before the Blessed Sacrament) but that he has learned that he can pray anywhere, even when he’s at the dentist’s office. He makes it clear that prayer is a moveable activity, that God is always listening, no matter where we are.

I don’t doubt God’s ability and willingness to listen to prayer wherever and whenever. The big question for me is: Where am I most likely to settle down and pray with any workable level of attention? Is it good enough to catch a few moments of prayer wherever and whenever? In my experience, that’s not enough. It’s too easy to skimp on prayer when I’m catching bits of time here and there. It’s better to have a set time and place.

These, too, can be moveable. I used to try to pray in the morning before I walked the dog, but the dog made it clear that once I was up, he was awake and so was his bladder. Then it’s difficult to concentrate on anything until the cats have food in their dishes—otherwise they are communicating ever so clearly that, even as I pray to God, I am starving God’s creatures. So now I pray right before I leave for work, when the creatures have been tended. The danger of this is that if I’m running late, prayer time can be cut short.

The place changes with the seasons. When weather is mild, I am more likely to pray in the backyard; prayer and morning seem to go together so well, and bird song is a great accompaniment. Because I usually chant a psalm during my morning prayer, I choose a place where I’m not likely to be heard. This means that I pray in a room separate from our bedroom, because my retired husband is still asleep when I’m off to work.

There was a time when my best prayer was in the car on my morning commute. I could pray out loud; however, I could not use a prayer book, which is my preference now. I commute by public transportation now, and at times I pray with a book silently on the train if my schedule is off and I’m missing my morning prayer too often.

And there are times when my best prayer is on the train but not with any book. I simply regard my fellow travelers and include them in my prayer. For instance, I focus on a different passenger with each line of the Our Father. This brings my private prayer outward, which is good to do sometimes.

Prayer is like any other valuable daily activity. You have to be willing to work with it, experiment, even play with time and place and mode and material. The point is to try. Usually it helps to have a set time and place, because humans do well with established habits. But some of us get bored easily, or our creativity kicks in and wants something different. God is all for creativity. Mostly, though, God wants our hearts to turn Godward, ever and often.

About Vinita Hampton Wright 186 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.

11 Comments on A Place to Pray

  1. As I prepare to eat my breakfast, I pray for those who have no food and for all who had a part in bringing the food to my table.

  2. Dear Vinita.
    I live on a farm with my daughter,am surrounded by paddocks hills and trees and of course animals and birds, my whole life since i retired is a prayer.
    Thank you for your thoughts and your Love of GOD.

  3. Loved this piece – thank you. I often pray on the bus – one advantage of the obsession with texting and reading stuff on one’s cell phone is that the bus is now remarkably quiet, so I can pray easily or even join the trend and read the scriptures on my phone!
    Bridget (New Zealand)

  4. Excellent vade mecum especially for those who have to travel go to work and who have a busy schedule back home. Prayer for me is vital — it has been so for my entire life. When I left prayer and didn’t give the importance that it fulfils I lost my way — my marriage, my kids, my everything. Only prayer got me back to another way that also leads to the Lord. My septuagenarian advice is ‘pray every day ‘ — talk to the Lord each breath and each moment of your life. You will definitely find the happiness that sometimes we seek elsewhere. Thanks again — joseph francisco

  5. I have prayed every morning over a cup of coffee withe the daily Jesuit prayer as my guide. It’s become like brushing my teeth because if I don’t do it my day isn’t the same. I don’t think about praying throughout the day but ask God to allow my day to be a prayer. I work with grieving people so it helps to let the Holy Spirit rule the day.

  6. Many thanks for this helpful message. I remember someone saying many years ago, ‘before you can pray anywhere you have to pray somewhere’
    Jim

  7. Formal Prayer or conversational Prayer? I speak to God all the time. When I wake I usually say the Our Father… then I offer all the day ahead to God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit(ALL THREE) This way I am hoping my whole day is a prayer of offering and THANKS to God. Listening is part of prayer (For me anyway). Maybe I have it all wrong. I am not a theologian! Just doing the best I can. I live in a country town in Australia. One priest to service a HUGE area ,so I try not to bother him.

  8. Dear Vinita I normally pray whem I wake in the morning. I am calma and very aware of the importante of the moment. The family is still a sleep and the house is quiet. Só my only concern is to listen God word. Thank you for your comments. God bless you and your work. Fernanda. I AM from Oporto in Portugal

  9. Praying is something built through the years. The foundation begins when parents and teachers teach children the act of praying.. It is thus an utmost responsibility on our part to cultivate the minds of children and nourish the young generation on what praying is about. I am so pleased to read this article most specially relating to everyday routine..

  10. I LOVE how you point out that while we can pray anywhere, I need to think about where I am most likely to notice God.
    And I, too, have prayed for strangers on trains for years. Some days, when some wonderful thing happens to me that is clearly God’s blessing to me, I think that perhaps there is SOME OTHER stranger who prayed for me, when I did not know it, like we pray for others on trains.
    This week, I tried something new: I prayed for everyone who would drive on the streets I use as I commute to work. May all travelers be safe!

  11. Vinita, thank you. As always you provide food for thought. Our prayer lives do change as we change but God is always listening.

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