At four o’clock this morning all the community, except our Hairy Brother, was in the garden, making the most of the cool and comparative quiet of early morning to pray. Not everyone has that luxury, so here are a few tips, some serious, some slightly less so, for those who want to pray but find the melting temperatures a handicap.
The Prayer of Comfort
This is for those who have a certain amount of time and freedom at their disposal. Make yourself ‘comfortable’ (I don’t have to spell that out, do I?), drink a glass of water, then choose the place where you are to pray. A shady spot in the garden is ideal or somewhere you can find a hint of a breeze. Sit or kneel upright, read a sentence or two of scripture to draw your mind away from other concerns (the Mass readings of the day will always provide something) and give yourself up to prayer. If everywhere is hot and sticky, try walking slowly round the same small area. We don’t have a cloister, alas, but pacing up and down the same stretch of gravel can be very helpful. One doesn’t want too many distractions (oh, that view!) or too many novelties, it is the rhythmn that is important in quieting the mind and focusing the attention.
The Prayer of Gentle Drift
This is very common on hot afternoons. One settles down to pray with the best of intentions and, before one can say ‘Amen’, a drowsy numbness has stolen over every sense. ‘Go with the flow’ is the only answer to this, but turn it into prayer proper by quoting scripture back at the Lord, Ego dormio, sed cor meum vigilat. ‘I am sleeping, but my heart keeps vigil.’ It is, after all, the desire to pray that matters: prayer itself always comes as a gift of God. And at least we know that the sleeping mind can put up no resistance to the Holy Spirit as our waking mind can, only too easily.
The Prayer of Distraction
This will be familiar to parents and all who are frazzled by a thousand cares for others. The desire to pray is there, but finding a quiet moment seems impossible; and with tempers fraying in the heat, conditions are hardly ideal. There is nothing for it but an interior turning to the Lord and offering up, as we used to say, all the stress of the moment — and saying ‘thank you’ for all the good things that come our way. Do this before the school run, after the school run, as you enter your place of work, as you meet that difficult colleague, as you finally collapse into bed at night. I often think this is the kind of prayer that pleases God most, for the simple reason that one gets absolutely nothing out of it — there is no sense of achievement, no reassuring feeling that at least one has tried to pray, noithing at all, in fact, but refusing to allow God to slip from one’s mind and heart all day long.
The Prayer of Abject Failure
This will be familiar to everyone who has ever had to deal with any kind of personal crisis — the times when one feels one can’t pray and doesn’t even want to pray. In hot weather, or in hospital, or whenever mind and body are stretched to their limits, there can be a kind of interior rebellion quite at odds with one’s normal attitude. Then we must pray the Prayer of Abject Failure — only it is prayed not by us but by the Communion of Saints. We rely on the prayers of our ‘even Christians’, our fellow believers, of every age and time. It is being prayed now by those in deep distress, those fleeing terror or poverty, those who are gravely ill and those who are grieving. It is the prayer of the whole Church and of Christ himself, who ever makes intercession for us. We unite ourselves with him, and there can be no more powerful prayer than that.
So, four tips for praying in the heat. I am sure you can think of many I haven’t mentioned, but it is already too hot for me to write more . . . .