Lord, What Shirt Should I Wear Today?

You might think I’m being humorous, but I really do ask that question. I know it’s not a big deal, but it’s an easy question to ask. I’ll tell you why it’s so easy, I get dressed right after my morning prayer.

Yup, I don’t even get out of bed, I just wake up and start talking. God must think I’m worse then a pack of thirteen year old girls with how much I blabber. I don’t really have anything formal, I just decided a long time ago that the first person I should address each morning should be God, and so I’ve made a habit of it. At first it did not come easy though, it was a serious struggle. You see, there is a fundamental problem we face when we begin to learn to pray.

To really begin praying, you have to pretend like you are praying.

I swear, I’m not making this up, I’m just telling you how it worked for me. At first, you really don’t know what praying is, and you just feel silly. I felt like I was just talking to myself, like one of those nuts who walks around the grocery store with their Bluetooth in. I tried reading the bible, but in honesty, I got bored. I tried reading rote morning prayers, but that was no better. You see, I just didn’t feel like anything was really going on. I remember being asked when I first came into the Church by a buddy of mine,

“What does it feel like to pray? Do you hear God or anything?”

To which I replied, “Well, as best I can tell so far, I just sit there feeling like an idiot.”

You see, I was trying so dang hard to talk to this God I didn’t really know, but He just wouldn’t talk back. I might as well have been talking to a wall. All the fancy words in the bible and in these rote prayers just made it harder for me because I was so distracted by the readings themselves. I just didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. I still feel this way at times.

It was Brother Lawrence that fixed me up. If you have never read “The Practice of the Presence of God”, I totally recommend that you do. It is so short that you could read the whole thing while waiting for the doctor to call you at your next visit, by which I mean about an hour and a half.

Brother Lawrence taught me to pretend. He taught me to just chat with God as if He were there, paying attention to every moment in my life. At first, I still felt silly, but at least I wasn’t distracted. I could just focus on the pretending, and that was enough to do the trick.

This is why kids are awesome at praying. They don’t really try to over think it, they just go for it and see what happens. They are great at pretending, and therefore learn to pray super easy.

Now I won’t lie, I have never been able to keep this up for more than fifteen minutes without losing my train of thought, but it broke the barrier for me. After a while, I really began to know that there was something going on that was more than I was putting in. I can’t really quantify it in any way, but in the pretending, I learned some shadow of the real thing, and it has made all the difference.

Here is the kicker. At some point, I really knew this presence was, well, present. I learned what it felt like, and then I was able to access that feeling during other prayers, even those really complicated ones like bible reading. Whenever I start getting lost, I just pause, and focus on that presence that is always there. He still doesn’t chat back with me, but instead of the echo I used to get from the wall, I hear silence. I can’t really explain it, but it is very different then what I heard and felt before. It’s bigger, stronger, and quieter.

If you have ever had trouble with prayer, and I think we all have, I really recommend you look into this. I’m not really all that smart a guy, so I really like simple ideas and short words. Brother Lawrence is my man. And guess what! You can have it FREE! Click here, pick your format, and read it now or print it out later for while you are waiting for the kids to get out of baseball practice.

So yes, every morning I discuss my wardrobe for the day with the Lord. I’m there, I’m paying attention, and thank goodness he has never picked out that pink sweater my grandmother bought me that I should just throw away. Well, he never actually seems to have an opinion, but I suspect that’s because I have such great taste.

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6 thoughts on “Lord, What Shirt Should I Wear Today?”

  1. Dance,

    I JUST finished the Ignatian Exercises in the 32 week version for Lay people. Asking for the grace to feel His presence is how I started each time. It was OUTSTANDING! (the retreat experience and feeling Him SO CLOSE).

    If you haven’t done the Exercises, I would HIGHLY recommend it. Discernment is a cornerstone of the Exercises and it has helped me continue on this diaconate journey I have only begun to walk.

    One other thought for you (about does God answer back). I have a very close friend who has the most childlike/sincere/simple prayerlife (I’m SOOO JEALOUS 🙂 Anyway, he is always reminding me to “pay attention to what is happening around you”. That’s the way God communicates with each of us!

    1. You know, you just nailed how I personally measure spirituality. I find people who are more aware of the current moment, who are in touch with the now to be reaching in the right direction.

      This is interesting to me on a philosophical level. God is eternal, right? Eternal is not like infinite. Infinite goes on forever, eternal has no time component at all. God invented time, he certainly is not a part of it. (Well, there is the reality of Jesus’ life, but I digress)

      So what can eternity actually feel like? I think the only way to even get a fraction of understanding is in understanding the present moment as distinct from past and future. I think we can certainly see God’s work in the past and future, but can only experience Him in the now.

      St Therese said it best, when she explained that God does not give us grace for tomorrow, but only enough for the present.

  2. Thank you so much, Dance! I think God directed me to read this article (I plan to read the “The Practice of the Presence of God”, too). I agree with Tom that God communicates through things around us. -I think I’ve just been too lost in the craziness of life these past few months. I think I need to take a personal retreat, but that’s a little hard to do with 9 kids; 6 of which need to finish up a school year! Please pray for me. Thanks again and may God bless you.

    1. You and me both, this time of year drives me completely bonkers!

      You know, I would never suggest that someone not take a retreat, as it is often so good to take a step back and breathe.

      That being said, I have noticed so often that folks with busy lives feel they need monastic time to get back in touch. I feel that is because of the combination of our positive view of the religious life, as well as the fact that so much of our literature was written by these men and women.

      We get caught in this trap, and forget that we too are living the “religious life”, albeit in a frantic atmosphere. Any spirituality that does not work in that environment is great in small pieces, like a retreat, but no good in our greater prayer life.

      So use those retreat moments to get back in touch, but don’t forget that being a wife, motherhood, and being a woman in the world are also spiritual exercises, and your more important ones at that. Just find your way to bring the love of Christ into the fray.

      Even the nuns have to clean the toilet.

      And yes, consider yourself prayed for. 🙂

      1. Well, there is no chance that I’ll get to go on a retreat anyway! I haven’t been on one of those for more than 17 years! (That’s B.C. -Before Children) But I do take a daily “mini retreat”; It’s when I sneak to the bathroom and pray that no one will notice I’ve gone! 😉
        Thanks so much for the very sound advice and the prayers! Both are very appreciated!

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