So ironic, really. There is nothing more powerful than a mother who prays. And yet, show me the mom who has the time to pray.
Recently, I received a text from a young, mom friend, who I see at daily Mass with her two little ones. "I miss my daily time of prayer scripture reading," she wrote. "It's hard to pray when the kids are awake!" And "you see the zoo that we are at church!?" And "long story short, what advice would you give yourself now, having been through it before, if you were me?"
And this is funny, folks. Because when my babies were young, I did not take them to daily Mass. I took them to daily Starbucks. Nor did I have the desire to sit and pray with Scripture. So I am not so sure I am the one to seek advice from. In fact, just that morning before receiving her text, I was looking at her . . . wishing I could get a do-over on my own life. Because when I see her, with her husband, and babies . . . all so young, and with such a deep and beautiful faith, I do not see the chaos or hear the screams. I see prayer in action.
I think the key to a structured prayer life, specifically for mothers, is to throw away the way we want to pray, and allow God to lead us into prayer in the way that He needs us to pray.
Because the truth is, our role as mom can change day to day, and often, "structure" does not exist. Especially when we are still surrounded by cribs and car seats and the stained yoga pants we have had on since last Tuesday.
I think we fool ourselves into thinking that the only way to pray is quietly on our knees. Maybe because that is our favorite way! Maybe because that kind of prayer makes us feel good. But here is a secret I will share with all of you young moms "in the trenches." The older moms are in the trenches with you! Our trenches just look different, and come with a fully stocked bar, because we are no longer getting pregnant or nursing. And prayer doesn't have to feel good to count. And my daily structured prayer routine? Lately, it hasn't been so structured. Sick kids, end of school madness, work deadlines, the tick I pulled out of my scalp . . . the life of a mother is rarely consistent or predictable, or in my case, Lyme-free. And so when I am thrown a curve ball, I have to come up with some creative compromises; something that is just enough to keep me attached to the vine, although I feel like am ripping at the seams.
[tweet "Prayer doesn't have to feel good to count. #praylikeamother @LauraMaryPhelps"]
Here is my top ten list of favorite ways to pray just enough. Or as I like to say, to Pray Like a Mother.
1. Stop wishing your prayer life looked different. For starters, stop looking at the younger moms who are raising their children in faith better than you did, and stop looking at the older moms who can sit quietly alone at Mass without wrangling their little ones. You are where you are supposed to be. Trust God, He knows what He is doing. And by the way, comparison is a sure way to kill your joy. I know from experience. I have a gift of personal joy killing.
2. Keeping small fingers out of electrical sockets and walking your two year old to the potty during Mass for the 67th time is a from of prayer. The sacrifices you make as a mom are prayers. They may not be fun, but they still count. And small kids have to pee.
3. Get on Catholic Twitter. Follow the Pope, your Bishop, your favorite Catholic speaker, CatholicMom! Keep the number of people you follow small, and choose only those who are able to inspire, encourage, or crack you up (thank you Jim Gaffigan) with a quick one-liner. Motherhood can be lonely and boring. An online Catholic community can do wonders when you need a boost for that last leg of the race.
4. Keep a devotional, your daily readings, a novena, rosary beads, or a prayer card in your purse at all times. I have spent hours in the school car line pickup, at the bus stop, outside of a sporting event, or held hostage by a sleeping baby in a car seat. Perfect time to take out your beads or Bible, and get to work. (Personally, I prefer a book to my phone, because my phone has the amazing ability to lead me away from prayer, and to Instagram or my email instead. But for you digital folks with better self-control, check out the multitude of Bible apps and audio Bible apps available to you.)
5. Teaching your children lovingly to go away because "mommy is in prayer" is a good thing. Even if it is only for a few seconds. Show them your "prayer corner" (you can make them their own, too) then let them know that when they see you sitting there, they need to keep quiet until you are finished. (If I read this when my own children were still swinging from ceiling fans and jumping head first off of the couch, or throwing a tantrum and rolling on the floor, I would have died from laughter at this stupid idea.) But remember, the amount of time you spend there is not what matters. God isn't clocking your hours. He doesn't keep a tally card. (Only women do that with their husbands.) God cares about your intentions. Every small action we take in response to the desire He has planted in our hearts is a big time win in His big book of life.
6. Write down a scripture verse, and keep it where you are most. For me, it is the kitchen. Or minivan. Or fetal position under the dining-room table. Read it. Read it again. And read it one more time. It will change you.
7. Music, music and more Christian music! Play it all day, everyday! In the kitchen and in the car! Dance with your children, and sing out loud, even if you can't sing. Just close your windows. Nothing elevates the heart and soul like music. And if your kid calls you a "Jesus loser" when you are rocking out to Matt Maher, consider it a compliment, and turn up the volume.
8. Find a favorite Podcast. Right now, I am loving the Abiding Together podcast with Sister Miriam. SO SO SO SO GOOD. You can play it while you cook, fold laundry, shower, wash poop off of the dog or walls, or scrub the toilets. Don't worry. Sister Miriam can't see you. Plus, washing poop off of anything is a work of mercy.
9. Say a quick morning prayer, as soon as your eyes open. Baby wakes you? Hit the floor asap and say, "Lord, I wish I had more time to sit at your feet, but please know that everything I do and say today, I do for Your glory. Unless what I say is unkind . . . and directed towards my husband. But that's only because you allowed my baby to wake me up so early and for some strange reason, he doesn't ever wake up when the baby cries. Weird. Thanks. Amen."
10. Set your alarm at noon and three (and go ahead and set your coffee pot for four). At noon, pray the Glory Be, and at three, simply say "Jesus, I trust in You." At four, pour some coffee into that mug you have with scripture written on it. You know you have one. We all do. And yes. That coffee in a faith-themed mug absolutely counts as a prayer of praise. (Praise you Jesus, for this coffee and for cheap spiritual mugs at TJ Maxx!)
Did I say top ten? I lied. Top 11.
11. Join a bible study that offers you scripture, community, coffee and childcare, like Walking With Purpose!!! Check it out on the WWP website and see if there is a parish near you that offers a WWP program. Call me if you can't find one. We can fix that. If not, I will help you pack your house and move to where there is one. Yes. Walking With Purpose is worth uprooting your entire family. Did I mention it has coffee and child care?
At a faith formation meeting a few weeks ago, the priest shared with us a story.
"There is a beautiful mother who brings her very small children to Mass, and I see her bring these little ones up to the altar, to kneel, bow, and make the sign of the cross. Little children, learning about God. THIS is faith formation."
That beautiful mother? She is the friend who texted me for advice on how to add structure to her prayer life.
This is what God does, that amazes me over and over again.
HE USES US.
Even when we feel like we are accomplishing nothing.
Even when we feel like our life is missing something.
HE USES US.
For those mothers, young and old, who sit in the pews wishing your life could look just a little bit quieter, a little bit easier, a little bit different . . . stop. Because chances are someone is looking at you, wishing they had whatever it is you have. (Especially if you are holding a grande latte with coconut milk)
Actions speak louder than words, and the actions of a mother hold more power than we could ever possibly know, this side of heaven. After all, if "a woman's work never ends" and we offer up our work as prayer, well then, that means we are praying endlessly. Right? If you ask me, modeling your faith and love of Jesus to your young ones, is the hardest, greatest prayer there is. You may not feel prayerful, but trust me, you are living prayer. You are praying like a mother. And there is no prayer more powerful than that.
Copyright 2017 Laura Mary Phelps