Thursday, July 6, 2017

Turning Wait Time into Prayer Time

Dear Theophilous,

The biggest complaint seems to always be about the walk-in clinic… The wait can seem endless! Not only are you not usually feeling your best, and when you add in the crying child (sometimes your own), it can take what feels like forever to be invited into the blessed silence of the examination room. The excitement of hearing your name called is short-lived, however, as you soon realize the second stage of the long wait has only just begun.

Unfortunately, the long wait is not solely the domain of the doctor’s office. In our consumer driven society, where every experience is supposed to be geared to customer convenience, we tend to spend more and more time waiting… at the bank, in the drive-thru, at the supermarket, at the restaurant… even for the bathroom in our own home.

We cannot choose whether or not we find ourselves with this unexpected downtime, but what we can choose is what we do with it. Of course, some waits happening are more predictable than others. We know when we head to the doctor’s office that we will more than likely be in for a lengthy wait. However, when we’re only behind one other car at the drive-thru, we don’t expect to be sitting there for up to 10 minutes (yes, this has happened on occasion). Either way, the question remains – what to do with the (un)expected downtime?

A quick glance around the waiting room at the doctor’s office tells me that most people have come to the realization that they will have to hunker down for an extended period of time. Most adults have either a novel or the newspaper in hand, while their children are mercifully plugged into an electronic device watching cartoons or playing a game (Thanks be to God for earphones). I’ll often do this as well, bringing my current spiritual reading to take advantage of the forced quiet.

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen gives us another option… we should turn our wait time into prayer time:

All the idle moments of one’s life can be sanctified, thanks to the Rosary. As we walk the streets, we pray with the Rosary hidden in our hand in our pocket; as we are driving, the little knobs under most steering wheels can serve as counters for the decades. While waiting to be served at the lunchroom, or waiting for a train, or in a store, or while playing the dummy at bridge, or when a conversation or a lecture lags – all these moments can be sanctified and made to serve inner peace, thanks to a prayer that enables one to pray at all times and under all circumstances.

So before I break out my book, I’ll pull my Rosary beads out of my pocket, make the Sign of the Cross, and slowly, rhythmically begin to pray. Although I may have already prayed the Rosary once that day (it’s a part of my morning routine), I relish this opportunity to meditate quietly once more on the daily mysteries. Without the other distractions of home around me, I actually find that I’m able to better concentrate on my prayers when I don’t feel guilty about tuning out the world around me. Since the Rosary usually takes about 20 minutes to pray properly, I’ll only begin this prayer if I know I’m in for a lengthy wait.

But what about the other times when the waiting has been thrust on us unexpectedly, or we know it will only be a few moments? What if you know you won’t have time to say even a decade of the Rosary, let alone all 5. Depending on the time, location and what you’re waiting for, your quick prayer can take on different forms…

If you know you’re only going to be a few minutes, perhaps you’re behind a few cars at the drive-thru, a decade of the Divine Mercy Chaplet to remind you of God’s saving grace is what’s in order. In line at the grocery store, instead of getting frustrated at all the price-checks or reading the tabloid magazines, a prayer of thanksgiving that you are able to put food on the table is in order.

When the wait comes completely unexpected and my frustration level boiling over, I find it helpful to think of a favourite saint, quickly asking them to pray for me to get through the moment with God’s grace. Once the initial surge in blood pressure subsides, I am then able to approach the unexpected pause in a prayerful manner.

We cannot choose whether or not we find ourselves with these moments of unexpected downtime, but what we can choose is what we do with it. And like in all suffering, big or small, prayer helps make our Cross bearable.