Do you ever find yourself constantly checking your watch during prayer? Personally, I have fallen into this trap many times especially during holy hours.
I felt I was either racing against the clock in order to “get all my prayer done” or I was struggling to fill the hour with meaningful prayer and checked my watch every five minutes. I knew I needed to find a way that took the distraction of time out of my prayer and allowed me to pray freely.
Thankfully I had some great mentors over the years who passed on to me the secret of praying without worrying about time.
Step #1 – Prepare Beforehand
This might seem obvious, but in a fast-paced society preparing for an extended time of prayer can often be missed. We will either find ourselves scrambling to find some book to bring with us to a holy hour or we will bring too much and struggle to fit it all in.
The key is to balance our time of prayer with the right amount of spiritual reading, devotions and mental prayer. I have learned that it is much more of an art, than a science.
Praying should also be viewed as a conversation and any successful conversation has time both for talking and listening. It should never be a one-sided affair where we sit or kneel and rattle off all our petitions or read a book the whole time without stopping to hear what God wants to say.
As an example, if I am allowed a full hour of prayer I prepare for it by having an idea of what I hope to accomplish, while realizing that God has His own plan in mind. I split up the hour like this:
- Offer up the time of prayer for specific intentions
- Pray the Liturgy of the Hours
- Mental Prayer
- Spiritual Reading
- Mental Prayer
- Offer up a prayer of thanksgiving
I do not always have a full hour, so I scale back what I do according to the time given. I find preparing ahead of time helps me not worry about the clock, because my focus is not on “what am I going to do for the next hour or half-hour.”
I also try not to do everything possible during prayer. I try to keep it simple and reasonable.
Another aspect of preparing beforehand is actively scheduling prayer to be a part of your schedule. If you find yourself constantly checking your watch because you worry about getting to work on time, then you really should find a different time to pray. We need to make prayer a priority, and it shouldn’t be given a time slot when we feel stressed out the whole hour (or half-hour).
Our prayer should be scheduled when it would be OK if we went past the time allotted. Sometimes God speaks to us very powerfully and the restraint of time could hinder a fruitful conversation.
Step #2 – If Possible, Set a Timer
Another secret that I have learned is setting a timer that buzzes at the end of prayer. Obviously this does not work well when praying in an adoration chapel with others around you, but it works great at home or in an empty church.
By setting a timer, you know when your prayer time will end and you don’t need to keep on checking your watch. In a certain sense this is similar to the practice of monasteries where a monk or nun is in charge of ringing a bell at the end of prayer. This was certainly a much more common practice before the invention of wrist watches or wall clocks. The monks would go to prayer, pray and then be notified when the time was up. They didn’t have to worry about time (except for the monk in charge of ringing the bell).
Step #3 – Remember, Prayer is Not All About You
The final step to having a fruitful holy hour is realizing that prayer is not all about us. Sometimes we might go into prayer and have a litany of devotions we want to “accomplish” and get upset if we don’t finish our rosary. In reality, God has plan for you and it may not involve praying all twenty decades of the rosary.
It is very possible that God will move your heart during spiritual reading or during a litany to the Blessed Mother and you will need to stop and respond to His invitation. That is actually a good thing and we shouldn’t place limits on God’s activity.
We shouldn’t become frustrated with ourselves or with God if we don’t pray everything we wanted to pray. Prayer is not all about us.
Remember, prayer is a conversation and it should never be one-sided. Even God knows this and will speak to us, but will always leave room for a response.
To summarize, in order to stop checking our watch during prayer we need to prepare beforehand, set a timer (when possible) and remember that prayer is not all about us and our devotions. God wants to speak to us and so we should try our best to not let time dictate our prayer.