I don’t know when exactly I stopped praying. Just that, gradually, in the exhaustion and life changes of new motherhood, I stopped regularly reaching out to God.
I knew I needed God. Boy, did I need him. I was a mess. An exhausted, weepy, milk-leaking time bomb of a woman.
But other than frequently asking God, “Are you sure you meant me to be a mother? Really, really sure? Because I’m not at all convinced that I’m the right one for the job,” I wasn’t managing a whole lot of prayer.
I wanted to have quiet time with God, but many days I couldn’t even seem to find the time to take a shower. At night, during the three seconds between my head hitting the pillow and sleep overtaking me like an oncoming trailer truck, I would think, Oh I didn’t pray today. Again.
Part of the problem was my limited idea of prayer as this hour you spent with God very early in the morning. I constantly felt guilty for not doing this. Praying first thing in the morning is a beautiful way to greet the day, and I know that it works well for many, but at this stage of my life, the thought of getting up earlier than my lark of a baby was daunting, to say the least.
So I was thrilled to discover a prayer ideal for praying at night.
It’s an ancient Ignatian prayer called the Examen, and since it is an examination of your day, it makes the most sense to pray it at nighttime.
First, you reflect on where you felt closest to God in your day.
Second, you think of when and where you felt furthest from God.
Finally, you ask God for forgiveness for any ways in which you strayed and ask for help in doing better.
I love this prayer. Often I go through the three steps fairly quickly and then fall asleep. Other times I find myself lingering with God in thanks for something or working through a time when I messed up. It is so joyful to reflect about those times in which I feel close to God, which for me usually come when I am with my children or in fellowship. And I find that I don’t even dread thinking about those times when I have gotten angry (usually also with my children) or otherwise erred because I am asking forgiveness and resolving to do better. I actually find myself looking forward to these nightly strategy sessions with God.
Yes, I am still exhausted when I fall into bed at the end of the day, but having this agenda for my prayer makes it so much easier to do it rather than just feel guilty about it. (How much time do we waste feeling guilty about NOT praying?)
When it comes to prayer, I don’t think God cares much whether we do it at night or in the morning, just that we do it.
I still pray the Examen at night before I fall asleep, and I still get to be woken up in the morning by my early-rising boys leaping into my bed and snuggling into my arms. And that is a beautiful way to greet the day.
In the comments please share your tips or favorite way to pray. We will choose THREE winners to receive a copy of Julia’s book Mom Seeks God. You have until Friday, April 7. Or you can purchase Mom Seeks God today.
Julia Roller is the author of Mom Seeks God, the story of her journey to reconnect with God through ten essential spiritual practices that she did her best to fit into the chaotic life of a mom with small children. She lives in San Diego with her husband, two sons, and miniature dachshund.