Loving like a Child
My birthday was last week.
My 5-year-old and 3-year-old were so excited. When my husband came home from work, they met him at the door. Fully dressed. And with shoes on. If your kids are anything like mine, you understand how miraculous that was! They met Dada at the door and demanded he take them to the store, right this very second, to get Mama a birthday present.
An hour later they came home laden with goodies. They wanted to get it all for me. All. The. Things. “Open mine first Mama!” “No, mine mine!” “Here, I’ll HELP you open them!” “This one Maaaamaaa!”
A flurry of torn tissue paper later, and we had the kitchen table filled with our new treasure. Fuzzy piggie slippers, warm socks with pink pom-poms, chocolate, MORE chocolate, birthday cards from everyone, and flowers.
What became of those gifts?
Within 24 hours, the chocolate was “shared all gone.”
The next day, I was rocking the napping baby with the 3-year-old playing at my feet. Except I didn’t know she had scissors… The kids have been having a blast playing with the newly liberated pink pom-poms!
The piggy slippers are the kids’ new favorite stuffed animals. They go on elaborate adventures all over the house. Oinking their way across the living room. Scaling the heights of Mount Kitchen Table. Snuggling up in the doll cradle for a nap… Anywhere and everywhere other than my feet!
Someone ate the googly eyes off one of the birthday cards, and copied all the words from the jelly jar label onto another card.
And you know what? I love it! I love how absolutely clumsy they are at this whole gift thing. It’s adorable! They’re so small. So inept. I love that they selflessly though about me for a moment, wanting to do good things for me. But I also love how very quickly they turned everything back around to themselves. They just can’t sustain loving me first for very long. They try, but it is impossible. And that weakness, that smallness, makes their efforts to love me even more precious.
I KNOW that they can do nothing for me. They are just little children.
Aaaand… This is pretty much how we pray.
We love God so much, we want to give Him All. The. Things. Every prayer. Every devotion. We’re gonna heap it all up on His heavenly kitchen table!
It doesn’t last long, though, does it?
I have these moments of zeal. For a short time, I will be on fire for prayer. Look at all the wonderful things I’m doing for God! He must be soooo happy with me! I am going to singlehandedly make His very existence better! You’re welcome.
But the truth is… I’m just really BAD at it! Bad at consistency. Bad at ferver. And really, really bad at making prayer just about my own wants! And so is almost everyone else! Because unless we are incredibly advanced spiritually, in the innermost mansions of the “Interior Castle” we have no idea how to love God. For those of us hanging out, playing checkers in the outermost mansions, well, we’re just awkward. Like a 3-year-old trying to do something for her mother. God loves our prayer not because it has any value on its own. But because we are so utterly bad at it! He loves the pathetic little ones!
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Finding Time to Pray as a Mom
I am probably the least qualified to talk about prayer. Seriously. Finding time to pray is a huge challenge for me! And when I DO have a few minutes, and the Holy Spirit prompts me to pray… finding the energy is a huge challenge! I’d rather rest for a minute, check my phone, read a book… anything other than pray!
People say to just get up before your kids. Get up half an hour early, and have some nice quiet time. Reflect on scripture alone in the empty kitchen, while the kids sleep. Tried it. My kids who already get up super early anyways just get up earlier. They somehow sense that I’m awake.
Then there is the advice to stay up after the kids are in bed. That one actually sometimes kinda works for me… if it’s a night when the kids actually go to sleep. But I’m not a night owl. At all. And praying at night usually ends up with my mind just drifting aimlessly.
So what’s a busy mama to do? How do you steal away even a moment to talk to God when surrounded by throngs of tiny people… all. day. Long.
I think the answer is looking at how we view prayer.
What is Prayer?
”For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” -St Therese of Lisieux
“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” -St John Damascene
*For a fantastic sermon on the kinds of mental prayer, watch / listen to Fr Ripperger’s Prayer Conference on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duSLwd1wd9c
On our knees. Alone. In silence. Our eyes fixed on some distant point beyond the crucifix. Our mind completely absorbed by some aspect or truth of God. No words. Just Him in us.
That is Mental Prayer, Catholic Meditation, the best form of prayer we can muster.
Buuuttt… as mentioned above, some days it’s impossible to find time for this when surrounded by littles. Sometimes nap time works. Sometimes there is a quiet moment while nursing a baby. And sometimes the best we can manage is kneeling in front if the crucifix for 5 minutes while toddlers climb all over us.
Then there’s vocal prayer. Especially the rosary. Our family rosary is not pretty. The kids climb all over us. It’s actually a bit ridiculous. And impossible to concentrate on the Mysteries.
I think the most important thing here is to keep the lines of communication open. Don’t lose sight of who God is. That way, when we DO have time again in our lives, we won’t be talking to a complete stranger.
The idea that moms are too busy to pray comes from a misunderstanding of prayer. Sure, we can’t reach the heights of prayer that a religious might… but we can still pray always.
This “Simple look towards heaven” can be worked into our day in a hundred tiny ways. Kneaded into the folds of our little world, like salt in bread dough.
6 Simple ways busy mothers can Pray Always
Practicing one or two special devotions is a simple way to grow in our spiritual lives. Even when we don’t have hours a day to pray. And many devotions even have special promises attached to them!
One of my favorite devotions is Our Lady of Sorrows. Meditating on her seven sorrows, on how much she suffered in her role in the redemption story. Our poor mother! It doesn’t take long to honor her tears by saying one Hail Mary for each sorrow. Or even a Dolorous Rosary.
Other great devotions to cultivate are the Sacred Heart, the Immaculate Heart, the Divine Mercy, the Wounds of Christ,the Precious Blood, specific saints, and our Guardian angel. But just pick one or two at a time. Too many will end up as just checking prayers off your to-do list, and not true devotion.
2) Morning Offering
If we do absolutely nothing else, starting the day with a simple morning offering is so incredibly important. Satan once said that if he could only get the first moment of the day, he was assured of having the rest of it! We need to give that first moment to God.
There are lots of beautiful morning offerings out there, but I can share the one I love:
Blessed Mother, I give you my day. All my thoughts, words and actions, all my joys and sorrows, and those of my husband. Please purify everything through your Immaculate Heart, and make it pleasing to your Divine Son. And do not permit us to offend Him by sin today.
And Mother, I give you my children. Keep them forever protected under your mantle, and lead them to Christ.
I offer this all to you for the conversion of sinners and the salvation of sould, especially in my own family. Amen.
Then pray an Our Father, 1, 3, or 10 Hail Marys (depending on how mean the kids are being to each other, and how quickly I need to get back to them), A Glory Be, and the Fatima Prayer.
3) Prayer Triggers
How do you remember to take your prenatal vitamins? I’m terrible at remembering my supplements. The only way it ever happens is to “attach” it to something that I do remember every day. Like rubberbanding the vitamin jar to my toothbrush. Then, brushing my teeth becomes a “trigger” for taking my vitamins.
Works with prayer too. Slip a holy card of the Sacred Heart into the basket of coffee fixings. Then every time you make coffee, you’ll see it and can whisper “Jesus crucified, make my heart like unto Thine.” (this is pretty much the only way I manage to remember my morning offering most mornings.)
Set your computer screensaver to Our Lady of the Broom, so every time you sit down at the computer you can ask her “Mother, help me use my time well.”
4) Spiritual Contracts
Sounds scary, no? The first time I heard the phrase, I thought it was something creepy. Don’t worry. It’s not.
A Spiritual Contract is just telling God “Every time I do X I intend to renew my prayer Y.”
For example, you can say every time you make the Sign of the Cross this month, you mean it as a prayer for a sick relative. Or, every time you do the dishes, you mean it as a prayer of gratitude for your blessings.
This is especially powerful when used to renew your Communion Thanksgiving! After a good Communion and making a Thanksgiving /asking Our Lord for what you are needing, set up a spiritual contract. Say every time you cross yourself, or place a finger on your heart, that you wish to renew your Thanksgiving and petitions.
5) Patron Saint of Tasks
One way I stay sane is designating a specific patron saint for the jobs that are difficult. Then I can just quickly turn my attention to that saint with a quick “Pray for me” or “Help me.” I turn over that work to them.
Everyone already does this with Saint Anthony. We lose the car keys 2 minutes before we need to walk out the door? Saint Anthony, find them! Our kid has only the left shoe out of every single pair they own? Saint Anthony, please find just one right shoe… any one! Anything is lost, and Saint Anthony is our man. We immediately turn towards him.
How about other saints?
St Martin de Porres is my personal saint for gross stuff. Seriously. Anything I have to do that is nasty, I drag him into it. When the 1-year-old knocks over the FULL trash can, and I have to grab all that grossness with my bare hands and quickly get it shoved back in the bag, before the kid can shove it in his mouth. When I’m scrubbing the bathtub after sewage backed up into it. When I’m cleaning up the dog messes in the back yard. When I’m cleaning vomit. It’s all St Martin. (I think he’s going to have a few words for me in heaven!)
St Zelie is my go-to for mothering stuff (along with the Blessed Mother of course.) Up rocking a sick child all night long. Walking miles back and forth across the carpet to comfort a teething baby. I turn my thoughts to St Zelie.
St Martha helps when I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the work, and losing sight of the ONE THING.
These little things keep our minds on the Saints and bring them into our lives. Ant through them, God.
6) Audio Content
Listening to Catholic audio content is a fantastic resource for keeping our minds on God throughout a busy day. Whether I’m praying along with an audio rosary to help me stay focused, listening to a sermon or conference, or just playing music in the background. I’m a huge fan.
Just listening isn’t nearly as much of a prayer as actually, well, praying. But it’s still bringing our attention to the things of God.
One caution though. We need temperance. Since audio content is stimulating to the senses, it give us pleasure. Which means we can easily overuse it. I’m pretty much an expert at listening to a good podcast, at the wrong time, and convincing myself that I’m doing good. It can start to get in the way of fulfilling my duties, or even real prayer. Be careful, or you’ll end up in the confessional like me saying “I listen to youtube sermons instead of doing the dishes…”
Perseverance with Baby Steps
Romans tells us we do not know how to pray as we ought. Our Lord knows we are just naturally really bad at prayer.
He knows we are busy mothers. He knows we are busy being His Hands. He understands we don’t have endless time to pray (and He wouldn’t want us to neglect our family to spend hours in prayer.) He understands that we are Little. And our Littleness delights Him.
But that doesn’t mean we should give up and not try to improve in prayer!
Now, don’t go crazy with a spreadsheet listing out 50 different saints and what areas of your life you want to give them! You’ll NEVER remember it all! Don’t have a list of “devotions” a mile long. You won’t actually be devoted to any of them. Pick one. Your biggest struggle. Keep that for a month or two until it’s habit, then add another. Go slow and be consistent.
When we understand how hopeless we are at prayer, we will be more likely to pray like the tax collector, beating our breast and saying “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” – Luke 18: 10-14
And may our Heavenly Father be moved to love at our poor attempts to please Him!
How do YOU find time to pray as a busy mom?
In Corde Maria