A couple of weeks ago we were blessed as a staff to have Sr. Sarah Burdick, from the Servants of God’s Love, lead us in a day of retreat. I had asked her to speak about how to face the obstacles that we all face in having a consistently lived out Christian life, especially our prayer life. As it went, on her way to join us at the retreat she got rerouted and then lost by some construction. Then when she made it, her car died on the spot. A more literal way of preparing for a talk on obstacles than what she had been planning! (As it turns out, the alternator on her car had died, but AAA was able to tow it to Adrian and get it replaced by that afternoon). Part of the inspiring part of her presentation was the graceful way she handled all those unplanned interruptions.
Here are a couple pearls of wisdom from the day:
Prayer will always be fitted to our vocation, so we need to be comfortable knowing that her prayer life as a religious sister will—rightfully so—look different from someone who is married. The key is that no matter the vocation we are praying. One of her challenges was this—don’t take time to pray, make time to pray. There is a great difference in the intentionality of that act. Do we make time or simply take it when a convenient moment arrives. If we simply wait for the perfectly opportune moment, they are usually few and far between, if at all. We will need to fight for it like anything else that is a real priority. She talked about a young mom she is friends with who takes a short prayer time in the one private place in the house—the bathroom! That young mom made time for God.
Our prayer time should be measurable just like we measure other things in our lives. When it comes to exercise there are measuring points. F.I.D. which stands for frequency, intensity, and duration. How often, how hard, and for how long? Can we answer these questions regarding our prayer life? How often should we be praying? Everyday should be our goal. Intensity will be determined a bit by life’s circumstances and needs. There are some seasons of life that are easier while others are harder. If we are in a season that requires some healing, it will be more intense because we avoid the pain that comes from healing, from letting God challenge and convict us, from letting Him come close to our wounds. Don’t run from healing.
Duration of prayer: Usually we don’t have an issue praying too much, so I always encourage people to find their minimum. What is the minimum amount of time I am called to give to Jesus each day? That is the amount of time I will spend in prayer no matter what, even if everything goes wrong and I have had no time to pray at any of the regular times. Regardless, even on that kind of day I will still pray. Once we know that minimum, we can plan it into our day and also hold ourselves accountable to it.
Struggling to know how to pray? Simply go to Scripture. Sr. Sarah liked using Scriptural prescriptions—little verses of the Bible that spoke to her in those prayer times that she would take like medication for her heart and soul. When you pray jot down those verses and go back to them.