Whatever type of ministry you do within the Church, chances are there will be a time when it becomes all-consuming and your own personal prayer life begins to suffer. Maybe you’re so busy and have already been praying all day with a group, talking about God, giving of your time in practical ways so that you’re exhausted and you fall into bed at night realizing that you have not spent any quality time just between you and God that day.
There is a moment that I remember well from my youth ministry work. I was leading a talk with a group of teens and really getting into it. It really was by the grace of God that the talk went well and I was able to be so joyful and enthusiastic, because as it was happening I suddenly thought: “Where is all this coming from? I have absolutely no prayer life right now and I’m exhausted and soon there will be nothing for me to draw from and soon my work will become far less about God and much more about me.”
That moment was a great early warning sign that I needed to look at my own prayer life. I was able to see that if I didn’t nurture a good prayer life between myself and Christ, I would have absolutely nothing to give the young people with whom I worked. I wouldn’t be able to share with them the joy of knowing Christ because I wasn’t enjoying that joy myself. If this kind of situation rings true with you, then the following might just help you create more time for prayer in your own life and renew and refresh the joy that brought you to your ministry in the first place.
1. First things first: Evaluate whether you’ve struck the right balance.
Do you have genuinely little time in your life, or are you struggling to pray due to “fatigue” from doing too much ministry? Look at your day and work out whether you can get up earlier, go to bed earlier, or drop something non-essential. If it’s a case of your ministry causing your prayer life to suffer, then start by looking at whether you have the balance right. There is no point giving everything you have to your ministry if you end up with no free time to spend with God yourself. Your personal relationship with God should come first in order that you can best share His love and mercy and the message of the Gospel to others. Reschedule, rearrange or cut back if you can on your ministry if you feel the need.
2. Begin simple – and begin again if you need to.
If your prayer life has really suffered, don’t attempt to get back to where you last left off when you felt your prayer life was “good”. Begin again at the beginning, and begin simple. Commit to something each morning, maybe before you even get out of bed. Whether it is a shortened version of Morning Prayer, reading one psalm slowly and carefully or meditating on the day’s Gospel, just start your day with a prayer. Don’t worry if you can’t spend loads of time – start small and if you do it with sincerity, your prayer time will deepen.
3. Utilize your smartphone – with caution.
Chances are if you have a smartphone, then you’re using it for many things – and many of them will be work and ministry related. However, your phone is a double–edged sword! If you are a smartphone addict like me, try downloading an app that tracks the amount of time you spend on your phone and on which apps each day. I was shocked to see how much time I wasted on my phone doing non-essential things. I had a lot more spare time than I thought I did. Your smartphone is great, though for praying when you are busy or traveling. Using apps like “Laudate” you can have all the prayers at your fingertips, including the Liturgy of the Hours. If you’re going to use your phone for Morning Prayer, you could put it on airplane mode before you go to sleep so that you don’t wake up tempted to read all your notifications before praying. In fact, any time you use a prayer app, put your phone on airplane mode so you’re not interrupted with phone calls or emails coming through.
4. Pray a decade “on the go.”
The Rosary is perfect for times when we are busy! Whether you’re driving in the car, on public transport, eating your lunch, a quick decade does not take long. Give it all you’ve got in those few moments though and try to put your soul before God as you pray with Mary through Christ’s life. You’ll find these little moments refresh you more than you’d expect.
5. Give your day and work as a gift.
Everything you do is an opportunity to give to God in prayer. You can just say in your heart: “God, I give you this moment, this task, this job, it’s all for you.” Whether it’s running a retreat for an excited group of teenagers, a hospital visit, or a sweet group of First Communion children, you can offer each part of your ministry to God and make your prayer an act of love.
6. Set a time each day that you will stop very briefly, pause and put yourself into God’s presence.
Create an alarm on your phone or watch so you don’t forget. Whether it’s at your desk, on the way to your next appointment, parked in your car, or a quiet moment before a session begins, shut your eyes, shut out the world for a moment and simply be with Him.
7. End your day with the Examen.
St Ignatius of Loyola knew that his followers were busy during their day and didn’t have much time to pray. So he developed the practice of prayerfully meditating on the day at the end of it. During this time you ask God to show you where He was in each moment of your day. Busted Halo has a great explanation of this simple but rich form of prayer which you can find here.
8. Schedule “bigger” times for personal prayer once a week.
Put it in your diary and don’t let it be changed. Draw a big red box around it and make it a date with no compromises. Whether it’s an hour in Adoration or some quiet time in your room, this is your chance to give all of your week to God and really spend some quality time with Him. Set a reminder on your phone. Don’t miss out on it.
Ultimately, your personal prayer life should be the rock-solid foundation on which you build your ministry. It should refresh and renew your work constantly. If you feel like the balance in your life isn’t right, then remember Christ regularly took time to be alone with His Father in Heaven, and that He spoke to everyone when He said “Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28).