Motherhood’s Demands and Inconstancy in Prayer
Part 1 of 2
Editor’s Note: Today we’re excited to introduce Jessica Fahy to you, a home-schooling mother of five children, who blogs at “At His Feet: musings on daily Catholic life” and who has just joined our team of authors. Please extend to her a warm welcome and make her feel at home.
Motherhood and Prayer
It’s the month of May – our Lady’s month – and Mother’s day is just around the corner. So let’s talk about motherhood and a mother’s prayer life. Prayer is absolutely necessary for our sanctification and perfection in God’s love. We know that. Yet it can be a temptation to let the demands of motherhood excuse us from a consistent, daily prayer life.
We may not be as disciplined as we’d like to be with our spiritual life. We miss our times at prayer. We fail to rise early. Our minds dart about, wandering and distracted. When we do actually get to pray, we are interrupted by babies crying and the endless needs of our children. Or….we fall asleep.
Perhaps we can’t find any time to pray ourselves but the one thing we can count on is praying with our children throughout the day. Yet, maybe prayer with them looks something like this…
“Hail Mary…. stop making faces at your sister!…Full of grace…No, stay in the room…The Lord is with thee…Stop using that Rosary to play with the cat!….”
It isn’t pretty. Hardly ever. But it is full of grace.
Motherhood is Demanding. It is perfectly understandable why we may not be able to pray as we wish we could all the time.
In the same breath, our “busy-ness” can also be a mask for the vice of acedia or a type of spiritual sloth in which the demands of motherhood become the excuse of why we can “hardly ever” pray. There is a difference. And in the face of an almost constant, nagging exhaustion, it’s easier, well, to just not pray.
Prayer is part discipline, and discipline is painful at first until one’s faculties and habits begin to fall in line. We must be careful to not use exterior activities as a reason for not having a daily habit of prayer:
Any pretext will serve, if we can only escape this discipline of our faculties [prayer]: business, family problems, health, good reputation, patriotism, the honor of one’s congregation, and the pretended glory of God, all vie with one another in preventing us from living within ourselves. This sort of frenzy for exterior life finally succeeds in gaining over us an attraction which we can no longer resist. – The Soul of the Apostolate, Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O.
Even good reasons can keep us from forming the habit of a deeper prayer life. The spiritual writers do give us counsel:
Grace is palpably felt and touched in prayer; hence it strengthens our faith and inflames our love. The peculiar trial of hard work is that it keeps us so much from prayer, and takes away the flower of our strength before we have time for prayer, and physical strength is very needful for praying. In consequence of this attraction we acquire habits of prayer by having set times for it, whether mental or vocal. Not that a mere habit of praying will make anyone a man of prayer. But God will not send His fire, if we do not first lay the sacrifice in order.
– Growth in Holiness, Father Faber (my emphasis added).
For the morning time is the best time for all spiritual exercises.
– Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales
So as moms, there’s days here and there we may miss our time of solitude and quiet with the Lord. We might sleep in by accident or by need. Emergencies and interruptions happen that tend to be the duties of the moment. These things can sometimes lead our prayer life to become inconsistent. It happens. That’s OK!
Inconstancy in Prayer
But then there’s the inconstancy of an underlying spiritual sloth that masks itself as constant activity done for the good and noble reasons of our vocations. We ought to be convinced that even though we may do much by exterior activity, it will bear very little fruit apart from an interior life. Our good works within our vocation should actually flow out from our interior life and be an overflow of it; if we try to do it the other way around, we will just drain ourselves and be lacking in that joy and life which our Lord promises us in the midst of it:
I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly. – John 10:10
Editor’s Note: In Part 2, Jessica will discuss questions to consider in dealing with inconstancy in prayer and what can be done about them.
Art for this post on motherhood’s demands and inconstancy in prayer: Partial restoration of Madonna under the fir tree, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1510, PD-UD author’s life plus 100 years or less; detail of Tête d’Etude l’Oiseau [Study of the Bird’s Head], William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1867, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less; detail of Mulher do chale verde (Woman with green shawl), Cyprien Eugène Boulet, before 1927, PD-US term of life of author plus 80 years; all Wikimedia Commons.