Saturday, 28 November 2015

The One-Trick Morning Prayer (or How to Re-Invent the Wheel)

I have found it pretty hard to develop a good prayer life since I reverted. 

Theoretically, I would love to stop my day and reflect at all the times wisely allocated by the Liturgy of the Hours, ponder the Angelus three times a day, do a family rosary after dinner, an examination of conscience before bed, ALL.THE. THINGS.

Poor under-used oratory.

So far I have mostly failed.

Unless I roped Simon in (he is the one with self-discipline in the family, I am the one with the... cakes, I guess?).

In the past, I have been able to do the Angelus three times a day through Lent, and before Jude was born we did say a rosary before bed (after Jude was born, we said a "Hail Ma;jdfv;brv zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz").

Then early this year, we wanted to really commit to a morning and evening routine, and with Simon's help, we've managed to finally do an Examination of Conscience and say evening prayers before bed every night. Angels are (cautiously, my resistance to routine is impressive) singing in Heaven.

The problem is, Simon is not here during the day, and leaves before we get up most mornings. So What Do We Do About Morning Prayers?

What we did, for a long time, was fail.

And then, I remembered advice I read many times, but particularly in The Little Oratory. When I first read the book, I dutifully set aside some shelves to create a nice oratory, and calligraphied many prayers (because I don't need to be pushed much to do some calligraphy). And then I started wondering how we would actually make use of all of this.

The oratory is behind our dining room table, making it awkward to stand in front of it, and making us crane our necks and still not see anything if we try to look at it whilst sat around the table.

See? Awkward.

It seemed to be condemned to just looking pretty and offering me new occasions of practising humility every time I passed it and contemplated my own failure.

Until I remembered the oldest trick in the book, the thing everybody knows about worship, the most basic thing associated with prayer life: candles.

Candles finally solved the problem(s).

One morning, I grabbed the images from the oratory, put them on the table in front of Patapon and I, lit a candle and started saying the morning prayers whilst Jude ate - he did interject a "Amen" here and there (he's worked out long ago that once he says "Amen" at the end of grace before meals, he gets food, so he is a very keen user of the word, exclaiming "Amen" as soon as he is in his chair so we can get on with eating already).

Look at me becoming magically pious whilst eating my weetabix!

And the next day, once he had his food in front of him, he started pointing as the images, and mostly, the candle, saying "Amen". Because I may forget the pretty light, but he certainly doesn't.

Pretty Light!

So just like that, we started saying our morning prayers every day. Cue more (still cautious) singing from angels in Heaven.

Of course, I wouldn't say I now have a good prayer life, but at least I kinda have one, which is a huge step for me. So, just in case there are still people out there as inept as me when it comes to prayer life, here it is, my earth-shattering discovery of the wheel, just for you.

For everybody else, you can have a good chuckle at my expense for not figuring it out sooner. It's ok, I am amused too.

Next I'll discover the power incense and tell you all about it. 

Maybe that will help with finding a way to say the rosary.


  1. But, I love your oratory! Your icons are really beautiful.

    We recently started lighting candles for dinner nearly every night, per Auntie Leila's instructions, and it really is magical how much better-behaved the children are, suddenly, at the table.

    Remember, too, that we pray as we work when we do it mindfully for the glory of God. I taped Kendra's Works of Mercy printables up in my kitchen to remind me that each thing I do throughout the day can also be a form of prayer. :-) (I think that was her most encouraging post ever, for me!) Coming from a Protestant background, I have a slightly different perspective on prayer, I am finding. I don't worry so much about the prayers to be recited, as long as I am actually talking with God at various points throughout the day. I love the recited prayers and the focus they bring, but I pray many times as I'm doing the dishes or whatever, just raising my thoughts to heaven (as it were) and having a conversation - talking, listening, focusing on Scripture. All these things are prayer, too.

    The best luck I've had saying the Rosary (or at least part of one) during the day is to keep one by the chair where I nurse. It's practically the only time I sit down all day and stay still for minutes on end, so that's my best bet for focused meditative prayer!

    1. Thank you! I am mostly glad I am finally using it!
      I do try to remind myself to pray informally throughout the day (hence the St Frances of Rome quote on the oratory) but I generally find it is more likely to happen if I have started the day with the set of rote prayers. I think it gives me the right tone that I can endeavour to keep for the rest of the day!

      I'll have to try the nursing rosary when the new baby arrives, I'll let you if it's working!

  2. I'm late to the conversation (computer was down), but I'd like to add my agreement with Elizabeth. Nursing is THE time to say the Rosary. You might be able to make it Patapon's job to bring you your rosary and say an Ave with you. Also, once you have morning and evening prayers down, I'm with Elizabeth about short ad lib prayers throughout the day. I would not say it is Protestant, though. Read St Alphonse de Ligouri's short work, called in English, "How to Pray at All Times" (free on Kindle). What I found I needed were "triggers" to remind me. St Alphonse's examples are often 18th-century ("Pray when you see a mule..."), but easily adaptable. For example, pray for the dead at every red light. Pray every time you turn on the water (I try to say "Wash me yet more from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sins'" - Psalm 50/51 - and of course thank God for indoor plumbing!)
    Set your phone or computer or buy a chiming clock if you don't have church bells nearby. That is how I remember the Angelus. And every hour that strikes can remind us to raise our hearts to God.

    1. Oh I love this idea! I'm going to have to look up the book, but it is such a great way to get into the habit of praying, thank you!
      (I did do the phone thing to remind myself of the Angélus, but then I heard that after Easter you are meant to say the Regina Caeli, so I deleted the alert and never replaced it - of course!)