A while back I blogged about A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. It's on my mind today because I finally got it back from a friend who had borrowed it, and I mean to reread it. In short, it's a guide to help you get your priorities in order: God, health, marriage, children, work. It's probably the most effective get-your-life-and-home-in-order tool I've ever tried, especially in combination with the routines developed by the Flylady.
I've been neglecting my Rule for a while. But one aspect of it has stuck, to my great astonishment. When I developed my Rule I decided that I would make time to pray some of the Hours. And despite all the other laxities that have crept into my life, I've managed to keep up Morning Prayer, almost every day.
This is not, I swear, because of a great deal of dedication on my part. I've almost been forced to do it. I have actually noticed that I have a better day if I pray the Morning Hour before I do anything else. (Well, almost. The first thing I do is get myself a cup of coffee.)
Nor do I mean that I am more spiritually content or have a purer heart or any sort of thing. I mean this purely empirically. Pray Morning Prayer: get stuff done, get through homeschooling, read stories to children, house is cleaner, dinner is done on time, general feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day. Don't pray Morning Prayer: dawdle around on the Internet far too much, neglect my stuff, yell more at the kids, get homeschooling half done before giving up, resort to plopping kids in front of The Incredibles, dinner gets started late if at all, end day feeling resentful and generally unsatisfied.
Why? Why? I could spout pious maxims about the importance of putting prayer first, but my scientist brain casts about for another reason. Is it the comfort and transition of a waking-up ritual? Is it the sort of mental state, semi-thoughtful, that it puts me in? Is it just because it prolongs the morning coffee as I have to sip between stanzas and antiphons?
The effect seems to be independent of my state of prayerfulness. Sometimes I really enter into the prescribed prayers and psalms; they strike chords in my heart and seem to be speaking right to me, or they seem to express my own soul's true lament or praise or petition better than I could have myself. Other times my lips move and I say the words as if out of mere obedience, I seem to have said the same thing fruitlessly before many times, and my mind wanders constantly to the concerns of my upcoming day and my long to-do list. Yet it doesn't seem to matter. Even just going through the motions improves my day.
Lots of times I pick up the breviary with contentment and look forward to the few minutes of prayer. Some days I don't have that contentment or that anticipation. But I pick the thing up anyway because I will be sorry if I won't. It's like, oh, making breakfast for myself or something. I don't always feel like cooking, but goshdarnit, I have to eat.
Astonishing, I tell you.
UPDATE: Interested in learning to pray with the Liturgy of the Hours, a.k.a. the Divine Office? Click here to go to the next post, for some background and tips for getting started, that is, how I did it.