It seems that modern life affords very few of us the opportunity to spend long hours in study and prayer. Even as a pastor, you’d think I’d have all the time in the world for such things, but I don’t. The work of the church keeps me very busy, and if I don’t find a way to fit it in somewhere, I’ll reach the end of every week having never prayed at all.
About five years ago, while living in one of the busiest cities in the world, I realized that the pace of my life and my work was unlikely to ever change. Nothing was out of balance. My life was simply mirroring the pace of the world around me. In the tension of wanting to have a more vibrant prayer life, and yet, being unable to, I realized that I had two choices.
I could give up trying to make any time for prayer and meditation in my life altogether, or
I could adopt (and adapt) a method that fit my life as it was.
It was at that point that I decided to pray with a “less is more” mindset.
In doing so, I stumbled across three great resources. The first was a book called, “Words To Live By” by Eknath Easwaran. The second was an ancient practice called, “The Daily Office” that was also available in book form. And finally, The Center For Action & Contemplation sends out a daily email that is filled with wonderful material.
Using these three resources, I started spending between ten and fifteen minutes in prayer and contemplation (depending on the length of the content) once in the morning, and once in the evening.
Little by little, I started to realize that my mind was becoming more clear throughout the day. I also found myself being less reactive when unexpected challenges would show up in my life. Most of all, I felt more at peace.
But here’s the thing— I didn’t notice these fruits for quite a long time. In the beginning of this new practice, it felt very rote, mechanical, and even lazy. Why? Because I was more concerned with quantity than quality.
But like the crow trying to get water from the pitcher, as I continued placing tiny pebbles of prayer into the waters each day, they eventually rose to a level where I could reach them and quench my thirst.
I’d wasted so many years waiting for extra time to just appear in my life, when in reality, that was never going to happen. Perhaps coming to that realization was the lesson that those many years of frustration taught me.
If you’ve been struggling with something similar in your times of meditation, prayer, or spiritual study, I’d encourage you to give “pebble prayer” a try. My life is as modern as it gets. I have a job, kids, bills, social obligations, health issues, and things around the house that always need cleaned, fixed, and maintained. And the minute that I stopped feeling guilty for being human and just gave the time that I had to my prayer life (which wasn’t much) each day, it started to add up over time, and the quantity and quality that I was seeking was there when I looked back at all the pebbles.
So meet with God where you’re at, not where you think you should be. God will take whatever we have to give and do more with it than we could do in a thousand years on our own.