Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. (1 Peter 4:10)

Alarmed in Prayer

When I tell someone I’ll pray for them, that’s a serious commitment. My life is very much about integrity, and part of that is the commitment to do what I say I will do, when I say I will do it. If you have asked me to pray for you, or if I have promised to do so, your name is on a list of people and petitions that I walk through with my Father God morning and night and sometimes in between.

If you are someone who thinks you have no one to, pray for you, think again. Because all the people who have no one else to pray for are high on my list of those I pray for.

If you are struggling with or suffering from addiction, mental illness, or serious physical illness, you are in my prayers every day, along with those people I know by name who need such prayers.

I used to think I prayed a lot. What I’ve learned is that prayer is a lot like cleaning house. While you are performing one task, two or three others pop up to get your attention. When I am praying, one petition leads to the next and to the next….

It occurred to me one day that there is more in this world that needs to be prayed about than I can ever possibly know or include in my daily petitions. What’s a girl to do?

You see, sometimes I can get lost in the part of my prayer time that involves putting myself in God’s presence and offering Him thanks, praise, and contrition. Then I get interrupted by the beginning of Mass or the need to fall asleep, with the part of my prayers devoted to petitions sometimes cut short while I am talking to God about all the things in the world I’m thinking need His help.

At first I thought, “Wow. I need to find the time to pray more.

Then I realized that what I really needed was to give myself the time and opportunity to pray more.

While I was having, and exploring, that realization, the alarm on my phone went off to remind me of something I needed to do, and in that moment an idea was born.

Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. The idea came to me, fully hatched, to use my phone alarm as a prompt to pray throughout the day. My response to these prompts is, admittedly, subject to variation. Sometimes when the chime goes off (yes, I actually use the “chimes” sound!) I look at the prompt and think, “Oh, yes, please, Lord…” and tap the stop button. Other times, I’m much better about stopping what I am doing and really taking some time to pray. And the prompts are designed to lead me through a day of mindful prayerfulness, drawing to a conclusion in the evening where I look, with God, at where I’ve been that day in His service.

I’m sharing my hourly prayer prompts below, along with a brief explanation of each, in the hope that others might find them useful. The process is simple; set the alarm time, select the sound, and use the prayer prompt as the label or text for the alarm.

My bold suggestion: Don’t be too strict about turning these alarms off when you are around people. Some of the best opportunities to witness have come when people asked me why my alarm kept going off!

My prayer prompts start at 8:00 a.m. and go through 9:00 p.m. Others’ schedules may vary — and others may have different prompts that are more meaningful to them. Honestly, the prompts here just occurred to me as I was setting up the alarms, based on some favorite brief prayers and scripture verses.

8:00 a.m.: Here I am, Lord, ready to do Your will. I added this prompt after I had been using the others for awhile. It’s aimed at getting my day off to a good start spiritually be reminding me of my purpose. Even if I’ve been to Mass already, it helps me get my head right before the busy-ness of the day.

9:00 a.m.: Blessed are You, Lord, God of all creation, for in You is all our salvation. This prompt is based on the ancient custom of beginning a time of prayer with praise for God for something He does in our daily lives.

10:00 a.m.: To your Father, you are worth many sparrows. One of my favorite gospel passages is Luke 12:6-7. “Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” This prompt reminds me that God is looking out for me with infinite love.

11:00 a.m.: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. From Paul’s letter to the Phillippians, this prompt reminds me to reach into myself for the joy that God’s presence brings; it also reminds me of the joy that comes with knowing that I am where He has put me, doing what He wants me to do.

12:00 noon: Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. This ancient petition to Mary reminds me to turn to our Blessed Mother often. In the years I spent away from the Church, I lost touch with Mary. She, however, never gave up on me.

1:00 p.m.: Everything for the greater honor and glory of God. This is a prompt for humility. During my years in the convent, this brief prayer was a constant refrain for our activities. It reminds me that as I go about my day, my activities and my successes are not for my own honor and glory but for God’s. This means it is ok if someone else recognizes something good I have done, because it centers me on my service to God through what I’m doing.

2:00 p.m.: Lord, it is good for us to be here. Peter spoke these words for himself, James, and John after they witnessed Jesus’ Transfiguration on the mountain. As a prayer prompt, they remind me to be where God has put me, open to doing His work. Often, when this prompt comes up, I take a moment to think about “where” I am, to be grateful, and to ask God what He has in mind for me right then.

3:00 p.m.: …and the disciples went and told Jesus. This prompt comes from the story in Matthew’s gospel of Herod’s execution of John the Baptist (Matt. 14:12). After the execution, “His disciples came and took away the corpse and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.” I’m pretty sure Jesus knew exactly what had gone on, just as He knows everything that’s going on in our lives. But in the true nature of the personal relationship He wants to have with us, He invites us and wants us to tell Him. When I imagine this scene, I don’t imagine Jesus telling the disciples, “Yes, I know all about it.” I imagine Him embracing them in sorrow and sympathy; the following verses tell us that he withdrew from the crowds for a time after receiving this news. In reflecting on this passage, I think of Jesus hearing me tell Him about my day, my life, my issues and wants and needs and desires. I feel His love.

4:00 p.m.: Jesus rejoices when we turn to Him in love. This prompt grows from the previous one and from thinking about how Jesus actively seeks a relationship with us. It also grows from a recent conversation with my spiritual director. I was sharing how I look forward all day to seeing the look of delight on my granddaughter’s face when I arrive at her daycare to pick her up. My spiritual director said, “You know, that’s how God reacts when we come to him.” I have been entranced, ever since, by the idea of His face lighting up when I come looking for Him.

5:00 p.m.: Pray for all the people you encountered today. Here, near the end of the day as I prepare to settle into my quarters for the evening, I want to take a moment and ask God to bless everyone who has crossed my path that day. Like Mother Teresa, I pray often to be made a blessing to everyone I meet.

6:00 p.m.: Pray always. Another exhortation from St. Paul, this one from 1 Thess. 5:17. In context, this verse is nestled within a number of exhortations. For my day of prayer, it reminds me of my intention to give myself time to pray, and it reminds me also that in offering all of my actions to God, I can make my life itself a prayer.

7:00 p.m.: Lord, let me be a blessing. From St. Teresa of Calcutta, this prompt is both a look back at the day that is ending and a look ahead at tomorrow. It is the beginning of a daily self-examination as well as a focus of intention for offering the upcoming day.

8:00 p.m.: How has God blessed me today? Another step in examining my day, this prompt reminds me to be grateful for all the blessings of the day; it also reminds me that everything comes from God.

9:00 p.m.: How have I served God this day? In asking myself this question, I remind myself to be grateful for any good I have done, and I also prompt myself to contrition for all the times I fell short of the service I owe. Sometimes I am surprised at how many small opportunities for service I have found. Usually those come from something unexpected happening, so that I am able to fill a need I didn’t know was there. I often start that day with one plan in mind, only to find that God has something entirely different in mind. Thinking of my day as one of service to God through the people around me is a wonderful blessing, one that keeps me from being irritated when things don’t go as expected.

And so there is my day of prayer prompts. It is not a stretch to say that my life has changed for the better as a result.

Lord, I hear You calling me to prayer. You call with that “still, small voice,” so I need to listen for it amid the noise and confusion of the wonderful world you gave me to live in. I hear You calling me to prayer, and I answer. I don’t know, God, is it a meta-prayer? Because I ask You, in Your infinite love and compassion, to make me through prayer an open channel through which Your grace might come into the world. Amen.

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