My five-year-old daughter has recently asked to join me for my Holy Hours. A mama’s girl to the core, she doesn’t want to be far away from me if she can help it. Maybe she is inspired by Jesus’ presence and the peace it brings, or maybe sitting in silence is preferable to an hour of my absence. Either way, I have really enjoyed her eager companionship.
I usually begin my hour with some undisturbed prayer time. She will quietly flip through her children’s Bible or play with one of the toys in our Mass bag. But about thirty minutes and a few “How much longer?”s later, she will ask to sit in my lap. Even though a piece of me just wants undisturbed prayer (And is an hour of not being touched too much to ask?), I’ll say yes. She’ll quickly hustle over, wrap her arms around my neck, snuggle into me, and rest in my arms. Sometimes, she will just look around the chapel; other times, she will suck her thumb and close her eyes.
That she feels safe, comforted, and loved when she is with me—especially when she is physically close to me—is evident. That I am the person, even for this short time of her life, who can soothe her little heart or be a source of affection feels like a profound privilege. She will probably never tell me she loves my thoughtful, frugal meal planning or that my laundry skills are top notch. However, she does offer me this moment of dependent, intimate love.
But truthfully, her presence can be a bit of a distraction. The stresses or joys I meant to offer are lost with her occasional wiggle or her asking for the time (again). And as my legs fall asleep under her weight and I snuggle her close, all I can do is close my eyes and soak it in.
What I have perceived as a distraction from “better” prayer time has actually been a call to what I really need in that chapel. I sense Jesus telling me that this is all He wants, for me to just sit with him in peace, trust, and love. I don’t need to perform with a beautifully crafted prayer or present my most undistracted reflection on a Scripture passage. While those are good and holy, sometimes my best prayer is just closing my eyes and picturing Jesus, me, and my little girl—her snuggled up to me, me snuggled up to Him. These moments are when I am closest with the Lord, when I am not trying to offer a perfect Holy Hour but when I simply allow myself to soak in His love and find peace in His arms.
I can also see how freeing this type of prayer is. Allowing myself to just enjoy God’s presence has helped to quiet my anxieties (and to be clear, I have many), if only for a time. I am a person apt to planning and productivity, but not having to perform or do during my prayer is liberating. Plus, because I can find myself so distracted in even the most well-intentioned prayer, allowing myself to just rest with God is an easier and more fruitful approach for me. I can just be, existing in a space with the Lord that is free of fears about praying “correctly.” And when those moments of distraction inevitably come, I can redirect my thoughts to an image or a feeling of peace with the Lord, rather than trying to pick back up on words of a prayer that my brain has long left behind.
My daughter’s love for me—and my love for her, for that matter—isn’t mitigated by her staring at the lights overhead (or the adorer behind us). Her presence in my lap is genuinely delightful, especially when she is pretending that the teething necklace in the Mass bag is a bowl of spaghetti she is eating with a crayon “spoon.” Her simply being with me, trusting that my arms are the safest place in the world, is enough to make my heart surge with love. The divine Father must be even more delighted just by my being there, regardless of whether or not I offer my prayers without misstep. I can feel my kid’s love for me when she just sits peacefully in my presence; how much more is the Lord attuned to my imperfect heart’s desire to show Him my love, gratitude, and trust when I just close my eyes and enjoy being in the same room with Him!
We could never give the Lord enough praise. We could spend hours in the chapel and say the right things, but ultimately, He is God and deserving of much more than we small humans can comprehend or offer. Of course, we should still do our best to pray without ceasing and to give God the worship and gratitude He deserves.
But we can also take the pressure off. Just like holding my husband’s hand, giving my parents a long hug after not seeing them for a few months, or snuggling with my kids during a movie is enough to convey our love for each other, the Father knows our love for Him just by our desire for intimacy and closeness; no words are necessary. If we want to touch His heart, despite our frail humanity, we can just close our eyes, wrap our arms around His neck, and rest.