DAILY PRAYER – A WORK IN PROGRESS | by Gail Dennig
As part of the Xaverian Associates’ commitment ceremony, we pledge dedication to daily prayer; what initially seemed the most doable of the three resolutions to practice. My work involves a ministry to; “educate the whole person” among other endeavors. Communion with the brothers, whether physically in their presence or spiritually trying to emulate and perpetuate their mission, is what it means to teach in a Xaverian Brothers sponsored school. However, daily prayer, most of the time, must come from me individually, self-motivated, and independent of outside prompting. Because daily prayer is not thrust at me by the ring of a bell, through a schedule, or by mandate, I do confess, my practice often suffers.
I am conscious of my commitment to daily prayer. Two years ago I started praying in the early morning hours before my day began. I sought quiet contemplation and ironically, the most tranquil, regularly available interlude occurred in the car while driving to school at 6:30 in the morning. Not an ideal situation, but in the silence of the commute I prayed (sometimes out loud) for a few minutes.
Dear God, thank you for the gifts you’ve given me
Help me to use them well today with patience and compassion.
Special prayers and intentions often followed the heartfelt preamble. I am happy to say my drive time prayers are now habit, occurring quite naturally as I pull out of the driveway.
I include gratitude in prayers and ask for blessings for those I know who are ill or suffering. I often pray for good weather (wedding), healthy babies (grandchildren), happiness and health – I am aware I ask a lot from God as well as those I knew who now dwell with Him. Sometimes I feel guilty; with all the suffering in the world, what right to I have to pray for a buyer for our home that has been on the market a bit too long? When I voiced my contrition a colleague and friend, he reassured me that God has room to hear all prayers, no matter how small. In my prayers I promise to give back as best I can. I don’t take God’s gifts for granted, perhaps a sign of maturity, perspective (and aging).
The problem with this drive time practice is focus, or lack thereof. First, I’m driving. Second, the prayers are quick (yet heartfelt). Third, on weekends, breaks from school, summer vacation, and if I’m talking (hands-free) on the phone, the habit is potentially lost. The good news is, driving-prayer is a habit initiated almost without having to remind myself anymore. So, a daily practice is possible – mine just needs adjusting and consistency, and perhaps a non-moving space where my full attention focuses on prayer.
A great idea comes from the book The Artist’s Way whereby one writes in a journal for three minutes first thing in the morning every day; before having coffee, before talking, before anything else takes place. According to the author, such free writing opens the pathways to creativity allowing the “juices” to flow unfettered. Why can’t this theory apply to daily prayer? Imagine writing freely for three minutes about God, gratitude, spiritual challenges and milestones! What a great way to start the day! Similar to my driving-prayer, after a while the journaling might become as regular as brushing teeth – be inculcated into each day as an invitation to commune with God.
Three months ago I bought a red spiral notebook for just such an endeavor.
I know that prayer takes many forms: helping and comforting others, giving of myself, gratefully watching a sunset, sharing joys and sorrows, making effort to be present for those I love and those who challenge my better nature, and more. Those types of “prayers” are parts of being a better person, which I try to be. However, I want God to know I don’t take Him for granted, that I am grateful, that ultimately, I know I am not in control of very much here in my life. I want Him to know I’m doing the best I can most of the time, I hope. I want Him to know I believe in Him, I trust in Him, and He is not an afterthought on my drive to school.
God, thank you for the gifts you’ve given me
Help me to use them well today with patience and compassion
Let me see You in all I do and in all whom I encounter.
Post Script: I drafted this reflection in April – now in July the red notebook is still pristine clean but my prayers on wheels have strengthened. I’m a work in progress. Pray for me.
About the Author
Gail Dennig is a Xaverian Associate. She holds graduate degrees in education and law and is a member of the English department at St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers, Massachusetts and a practicing lawyer in Groveland, Massachusetts.
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