Walnuts and Rice: Prayer in Real Life

"...pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1Thes. 5:17-18)

How is this possible in our busy days?

Several years ago at our Bible study, the leader gave each of us a jar with unshelled walnuts, and rice filled in around them. They were a gift meant to remind us how to do it—how to fit prayer into our overfull days—which she then demonstrated.

Into her own empty jar, the leader poured rice, and then tried to insert all of her own walnuts.

They didn't fit, that way. 

Emptying the jar again, this time she put the walnuts in first, then poured in the rice, and everything fit—each walnut and every grain of rice.

She explained that the walnuts represented our time spent with the Lord, and the rice represented all the other busy things that fill up our days. When you put in the walnuts first, and pour in the rice after that, it all fits. If you try to put in the rice first, there isn't enough space in the jar for it all, even though the same amount fit when we put the walnuts first.

When we try to include prayer as an afterthought, in other words, we just can't squeeze it in.

God wants us to make our faith, and our obligations to our family, the first priorities in our lives. Other priorities are doing the work we are given to support ourselves and family.  We need a balance in our lives; if we set God as our first priority, He makes everything else work out well. 

The first thing I do in the morning is pray; I give my whole day to God—my prayer, work, joys, and difficulties - and offer them as a "living prayer." In this way, my day becomes an ongoing conversation with Him. I place my walnuts in my jar for the day, and the "rice" of the other busyness fills in to surround, and everything fits, even what I call my "arrow prayers."

Recently, while my granddaughter was napping, I was praying as I put a load of laundry in the washer, and folding clothes. I stopped myself—wondering if I was being disrespectful, and saying in my mind, "Sorry, Lord there I go again."

I'm not saying this was a "still small voice" moment, but I thought the Lord was saying to me, "Don't you know I am here? I can also multi-task!"

That made me smile! Surely if anyone can multi-task, it is God. But we can too! I know people who use their commute for prayer, and the car becomes their chapel. God is with us everywhere at all times. He is with us in our day even when we aren't consciously aware of Him.

Once, while Ed and I were facilitating a Marriage Encounter weekend, a husband said that the thing he admired about his wife was that she got up at 5 am so that she could have her quiet time with God before the kids woke up. She said that she needed that time to herself to keep her sanity!

I can appreciate that.

However it works out for each of us, prayer time is so important; it is a chance for quiet, but also a time to get to know God better. We only become friends with those we share time with.

Perhaps you are someone who is like that wife—someone who needs time to herself in the morning, and is willing to get up early to have it. Maybe you are like me, and have an ongoing day-long conversation that starts out in the morning, and continues as your day progresses. The important thing is to make the time. If we aren't used to praying, God is happy if we just make an effort by lifting our thoughts to Him. If we reach out, be sure that He will be pleased to reach back.

Prayer is not complicated, it is just a conversation, and as in any relationship, the more we spend time together with Him, the more comfortable and more intimate we become.

My wonderful husband surprised me with a trip to Rome after Easter, and we will be there for Divine Mercy Sunday. I am trying to ride our exercise bike to get ready for all the walking we will be doing. I have made that bike my "prayer corner." I know that sounds strange, but it is working out well for me. I found out almost by accident that the biking-time it is a great time to be alone, and to pray, or put on my headphones to listen to some of the books I wanted to read for Lent. I am exercising my prayer life with the Lord while I exercise my body.

Whatever works for each of us, the important thing is to make sure that we fit the "walnuts of our prayer life" in our jars first, and then all the "rice-busyness" will neatly fill in so we can easily put the lid on our day!