Busted Halo
feature: religion & spirituality
January 25th, 2003

Prayer Sloth

Too busy for the Almighty? Maybe Not

 
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Sister Kay is slothful. She’s a nun and professor and frantically busy. So, when she announced to my Monday night class that she is lazy, I was shocked. Spiritually lazy, she clarified. Some days, she is so busy—keeps so busy—that she doesn’t have time to sit, think, and pray. She explained that she had never considered busy-ness a sin but realized it could be, especially when that busy-ness distracted her from God.

It seemed odd. Here’s the most spiritual person I know—a woman who has dedicated her life to Christ—who frets about not being spiritual enough. I considered my own spiritual life. Do I pray enough? Do I pray at all? Is spiritual sloth something I need to worry about?

Lost in denial
I like to think that it’s not. I am studying theology, after all. I study God—shouldn’t my prayer life be solid?

Hardly. Most days, I think too much to pray. Indeed, I think about prayer more than I actually pray. It’s that Catholic charm: a darkened chapel, candles, and chanting. I often think that I would pray more if I lived in a monastery. It’s an excuse, of course. A bad excuse. Prayer—that private, personal conversation with God—should be a priority. It should be natural. It should be easy.

Why isn’t it? Perhaps because I imagine prayer to be more difficult than it is. When I do pray, I am usually involved in another activity—sewing, cooking, jogging, stretching. I am engaged both physically and spiritually and, having romanticized prayer as a motionless, medieval, monastic experience, my actions just don’t measure up. Which is nonsense. Medieval monks prayed while sweeping and gardening. Why can’t I pray wherever and however I like?

Found in Christ
I can, of course. God is not so much interested in whether I pray before Mass or in the tub so long as I pray at all. Indeed, my most heartfelt and epic prayers have found their form far beyond the church pew and within the warmth of a bubble bath. It is only my own zaniness that keeps me from realizing their worth.

It is more than zaniness, however, that keeps me from praying regularly—every walk, every shower. It is spiritual sloth, a pathetic laziness, that fills my days with work, laughter, and weariness but, at times, little spirituality. In the morning, I think myself too hurried to kneel and, in the evening, too tired to say thanks. Occasionally, days will pass before I’ve rushed outside—schoolbooks in hands, dinner on the brain—and stopped dead. Fresh air swirls and I take time to breathe. I breathe and realize that I’ve forgotten something. Ignored someone. Ignored God.

It’s always a surprise. I like to think, after all, that because I study God that I think about God constantly. Thinking, however, isn’t praying and praying is the only way to know God. So, I start fresh. I walk, bathe, cook, clean. I pray for the strength to never ignore God again.

 
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The Author : Sue Birnie
Sue Birnie writes from Ontario in Canada.
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