Space and Place of Prayer

Weeks away from the due date for our third child, I find myself in full-out nesting mode! I am not sure where the energy or drive comes from, but with both of my other pregnancies, something deep within me suddenly propelled me into the action of prepping the space to welcome a new child. This pregnancy is no different. For the last two months, I felt the desire within me well up, and I began the ritual of prepping our home for the birth of our new little one.

This time around, creating a space and place for our new child in our home comes only six months after we moved into a new house, and only 18 months after we moved to a new city. I am mindful of the powerful effect that organizing and creating space in our external environment is having on me internally. As we work our way through each of the rooms in the house, hanging meaningful pictures, carefully placing memorabilia in its deserving place, and finding places for our belongings, I am noticing a loosening within me and a return to inner stillness. My physical environment is impacting my ability to tap into my inner space where I can more easily access God in my day-to-day life.

This awareness comes as no surprise to me, but more as an affirmation of the importance of space and place when it comes to our prayer lives. Often, as I listen to people during spiritual direction speak about their prayer lives, I ask them to tell me about their space and place of prayer:

  • Where do you pray?
  • What does your prayer space look like?
  • What materials help you in your prayer life?
  • When do you pray?

The answers to these questions can help us check in on the health of our prayer lives. We may find that the place or the space we initially carved out for prayer is no longer working for us. Maybe there are distractions within our spaces and places of prayer that did not initially exist. Maybe an external event in our lives impacted the time we carved out for prayer, and we need to tweak when we set aside time to be fully present to God. Perhaps the materials we are using as a guide have exhausted themselves, and God is inviting us to a new way of being with God.

St. Ignatius speaks to the value of our space, place, and posture of prayer in the Spiritual Exercises (#73-79). He offers the example of how even our physical posture during prayer is important: “If I find what I desire while kneeling, I will not seek to change my position; if prostrate, I will observe the same direction, etc.”

Subscribe to dotMagis, the blog of Ignatian SpiritualitySt. Ignatius suggests that the space and place within which we pray matters. Nature, too, seems to bring forth this knowledge of the value of space and place within me, as I wholeheartedly embrace the nesting that I feel strongly called to in this moment. Intentionally creating our space and place for prayer allows us to access more readily our inner stillness and silence so we can fully be present to God.

9 COMMENTS

  1. As so many of you, I also have a “prayer chair” in my bedrooom. On Sat. and Sun. it’s the first place I land after arising from bed. My good morning to God is followed by a very still and quiet listening that can last minutes or more. I then take time to read and pray with the readings of the weekend liturgies. And that’s followed by more quiet and listening. Eventually The day’s activities distract me and I know it’s time to move on. These two times I call my weekend retreat because they provide the time I want but can’t have other days. During the week I have many times during the day when I stop and listen, but for just a few minutes at a time. Examen is always before bed.

  2. I have prayer spaces. One is the Saint Jospeh Church where I attend morning Mass. I sit down and look at Jesus after the Mass and He seems to give me a sense of calmness.
    I also pray in my bed. I have prayer bookd nearby. I usually do the Liturgy of the Hours and read the the Gospel for th day. The Liturgy of the Hours helps me in the discipline of prayer. Also it is easy to catch God’s message in the Psalms and the Gospel.
    As a mom, i only get to spend quiet time after the kids left for school. So my prayer time is always in the morning.
    Thank you much for your helpful insights:)
    Rebecca

  3. I would say that not only is the space in which you find yourself praying important, there can be an importance to physical objects too. The first commenter talked about stirring a pot with her rosary in the other hand. I was given a prayer shawl 8+months ago after my dad died. There isn’t a night that has gone by that I don’t have my prayer shawl close by. Every night I listen to pray as you go and then night prayer the end of the Liturgy of the Hours for the day, always with my prayer shawl across my shoulders. I went camping a couple weeks ago, instead of taking my prayer shawl camping, I took a pocket prayer shawl with me that my friend gave me. I had it on chest while listening to pray as you go and night prayer and then near my pillow.
    Sometimes its not just about the space, but what you take to that space that also brings a sense of peace and comfort and the closeness of God.

  4. In my rocking chair at 5 a.m. There is a desk beside it with a lamp, my Bible, and a copy of “Through the Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections.” My chair faces a framed print of Ford Maddox Brown’s “Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet.” I’ve been praying in my rocker so long that it feels odd to pray and not rock. There is a chair at the desk that I use as an altar in those times when I feel I need to kneel. I recite the Rosary in the evenings before supper. That is done sitting on my bed in my room. There is a crucifix and a framed picutre of the Holy Mother on the wall.

  5. 4am in the morning darkness at the foot of The Cross. There I find that His mercy and His grace awaits me. I pray that you find “your” place and shrink the space between.

  6. I am still trying to find the right place. My husband and I are retired and it always seems like something is buzzing in this house. I have accepted the fact that early morning before my husband is awake is the best time for me.
    Thanks you for keeping me centered in the most important part of my life.

  7. Thank you for your good advice. I was away from home for six months and almost forgot to talk to God, but then when I came home I sat down in the corner where I always pray, and saw my little Polish prayer book and my Bible Study papers and my pictures of the saints and cds and I realised that part of the reason why I’d been so unhappy was that I’d almost forgotten about God. The next time I set out I shall be more careful to create a little prayer space wherever I go. You pointed out lots of things that might seem self-evident, but they’re not.

  8. Becky, as always you provide great material on which to reflect. Prayers and blessings for you and your family as you welcome the little one into your home.

  9. I have an armchair with a little table beside it, and on that table my Bible, scriptural Rosary prayer book, Rosary, the current monthly edition of The Word Among Us so that I can keep up with daily Mass readings. I often start out in that chair reading scripture, end up in the kitchen, stirring a pot with one hand, my Rosary in the other, praying in the process. The first time I caught myself doing this it occurred to me it might be disrespectful, but over time it has happened often enough that I’ve come to realize that praying as I’m doing other tasks is no different than talking to Jesus sitting in my kitchen rocking chair as I go about making our family’s evening meal. I’m not Martha, nor am I Mary – I’m me and this is my natural way of praying.
    Best wishes for your coming childbirth – I’ll remember you on my beads.

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