Dear Parish Faithful,
While looking through a catalogue recently from a Christian publishing company, I came across a rather intriguing title: Too Busy Not to Pray. I say intriguing because this is a theme that I think about often and one that I have raised with others before. Read that title again carefully, because it does not say Too Busy to Pray, but precisely Too Busy Not to Pray.
Either title could serve as an invitation to a book that assumedly addresses the contemporary Christian’s struggle to maintain a regular prayer life amidst his or her busy schedule. However, the title as it stands captures the urgency of the issue much more effectively. I would express that urgency in the following manner: If we are indeed “too busy,” then the only way that we can prevent our lives from spinning out of control—or of losing a God-directed orientation or reducing prayer to moments of danger and stress—is for the “busy person” to be ever-vigilant about praying with regularity to guard such spiritual catastrophes from occurring.
We always need to pray with regularity—“pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. But it strikes me that the busier we are, the more urgent it becomes for us to pray. In other words, the busy person cannot afford not to pray. Busy people indeed need the nourishment of prayer. Otherwise, the spiritual dangers are immense.
The “business” of our lives make us too busy to … do what? We are certainly not “too busy” to socialize, to seek entertainment, pleasure and diversion—all necessary to one degree or another because of the pressures of work and other responsibilities. And these diversions are layered onto lives that already feel the strain of “multi-tasking” the endless activities that keep our children educated, developing, healthily-preoccupied, etc. (A social commentator recently wrote that mothers have been reduced to the roles of domestic caretakers and chauffeurs. And is this why we still read such nonsense about the very “need” of fathers?). Therefore, most people carefully construct their schedules so that these extra social and diversionary activities are not terribly neglected. We can cast this under the rubrics of “leisure time” or “recreational time.” (This all gets a bit sloppy when we go further and speak of “vegging out”). It is the careful, calculated and natural integration of such activities into our lives that leaves us with the overwhelming certainty that we are “too busy.” And “too busy” leaves us “too tired.”
And at that point, we just may be.
The question then arises again, now with a certain persistence: to busy to … do what? To pray, to read the Scriptures, to assist a needy neighbor, to visit someone who really needs a visit, or even to call someone we know who is lonely? We are “too busy” to integrate the life of the Church into our lives beyond Sunday mornings. We are “too busy” for Vespers, Bible Studies, Feast Days, etc. Perhaps, finally, we are “too busy” for God! How often do we postpone our relationship with God until we have more time? “If only my life would slow down a bit, then I could turn my attention to God, beyond the perfunctory rushed prayer of my busy, daily life—if I even get to it.”
Is this dilemma unavoidable and irresolvable? Every Christian who does face—or face-up—to this dilemma must search his or her heart and ask, “how is it that I am ‘too busy’ to pray?” Whatever honest answers we come up with, I am convinced that we, indeed, are too busy not to pray.