Ah! If only supermarkets stocked time at a good price, or even on sale! Time should be considered a basic necessity, available to all of humanity, right next to the bread and Cheetos. Yet it never seems to be enough; we don’t have time to meet up with people, to do fun things, to finish our tasks, to go to the pharmacy or even to the doctor, to clean the house, to work out … let alone to pray. When we’re invited to cultivate a daily prayer life, how often does the assumption seem to be: I‘d like to but I can’t? Or Sister, maybe you have time because it’s your job, but I really don’t have time.
In this journey that we are making in search of friendship with God through prayer, I would like to begin by reflecting on the theme of time, in order to understand in a more radical way how it truly influences one’s spiritual life. Let us try to ask ourselves: Who is the giver of time? Who owns it?
“My life is in your hands.” (Ps 31:15)
“God has made everything appropriate to its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
“The works of God are all of them good; he supplies for every need in its own time. There is no cause then to say: ‘This is not as good as that’; for each shows its worth at the proper time.” (Sir 39:33-34)
“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Time is therefore God’s creation, shared with each one of us, his creatures. We have so much time: 24 hours every day, so a minimum of 672 and a maximum of 744 hours each month, for a total of 8760 each year. (For those of you who like math, there is more data in the footnote.) These numbers should make us realize that we are in fact given a great deal of time. It’s essentially a free gift, since we cannot control it: “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” (Mt 6:27) And again: “Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” (Ps 90:12) Our lives could change quite a bit if we perceived time not as our own but as a gift from God, to be cared for and lived well, without squandering it, but rather using it to bear fruit, like the talents in the Gospel parable. So I would like to invite each of us at this time to very honestly ask ourselves: How do I use the time that has been given to me? Apart from the ordinary things, such as eating, sleeping, working, what are the things that I consider indispensable?
I would like to pause now to allow everyone to make a small inventory of their use of time, guided by a very simple and direct question: What do I spend time on during the day? What fills it up? Here’s a little list you can customize to check off your personal situation at this time in your life.
I spend time:
❏ Working out
❏ Watching sports on TV
❏ Watching TV shows
❏ Watching light-hearted shows, game shows, etc.
❏ Cooking shows
❏ Watching ________________________ (other, specify)
❏ Playing video games
❏ Surfing the Internet
❏ Listening to music
❏ Checking my email (maybe even several times a day!)
❏ Scrolling through social media (maybe even multiple accounts)
❏ _____________________ (other, specify)
Nothing in this list is bad in itself or needs to be automatically eliminated. But it will need to be prioritized.
From this first part of the reflection it becomes clear that there is actually time, and that the choice of how to use it is left to one’s freedom. We can then say that when I don’t have time, it’s really because it’s not that important, or rather, because something else is more important. If we go back to the beginning of the reflection then we can say that “I don’t have time to pray” actually means “In my life there is something that is more important to me than prayer”. This is where the absurdity comes in: work, phone calls, reading the newspaper, working out, playing games on my phone, … things that absorb my God-given time, prevent me from having time for the One from whom I receive it! We should use the emoji of the little monkey covering his face in embarrassment!
If we have discovered that in the end it isn’t true that there’s no time to pray, then we start to see that the space for prayer will not come primarily from doing fewer things, but from the awareness that the time we have on our hands is not ours but His, and that it is with Him and only thanks to Him that we exist and can do things. The problem is not that I don’t have time for prayer; it’s that I am not always a good steward of His time. Maybe I don’t put God as a priority because that conversation with Him is not important enough yet. A very beautiful book by a great spiritual author of our time, Father Jacques Philippe, could help: “Time for God: A Guide to Mental Prayer” is a small manual, both practical and simple, for learning how to give time to the One who deserves it most.
This is the heart of our reflection. The focus shifts to my relationship with Him. I can ask myself first of all if I really know Him, if I really encounter Him? During this past Christmas break, my nephew, after having confirmed that I was married to God, then asked me: “Auntie, do you talk to Him, then?” “Yes, Emanuele, I talk to God every day and several times a day.” Friendship with God involves dialogue and regular encounters in order to grow and be enriched. As in any friendship, time is needed. Each of us is invited into this relationship with God. Prayer cannot be the umpteenth thing on the daily to-do list that fills our time from early morning into the evening, where we arrive exhausted. Time with God is the experience of communion with the One who made the world, who loves me, knows me, wants to meet me, wants to tell me something, waits for me, listens to me, consoles me, embraces me, guides me, encourages me, … and so much more. But of course I have time for God then, because He has come to seek me out and He holds me close to His Heart before I even realize it. This then is the conclusion of our reflection: If I allow myself to be encountered by the Lord, who desires to spend time with me, if I stop in the midst of the daily rush to notice His presence, then I will begin to know Him, and the desire to be with Him and to spend time in His presence will be the simple, obvious consequence. The invitation for each person is therefore to stop and take time for God. God doesn’t make a lot of noise when He is present, and we hardly notice Him. Let us recall the story of Elijah in Chapter 19 of the First Book of Kings: “Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice spoke to him” (vv. 11-13).
If we can just “stop time” then we’ll notice Him.
I will reflect on my current priorities and allow the Lord to “climb” a few positions in my personal ranking. Taking advantage of this time of Lent, which always invites us to a greater intentionality in prayer, I choose to dedicate more time (both qualitatively and quantitatively) to friendship with Him. I will take a minute now to write down my Lenten commitment that I am making before Him. Maybe I’ll even decide to share it with someone for the sake of accountability.
This month’s reflection is by Sr. Elena Morcelli
 The third chapter of Ecclesiastes expresses a kind of litany known as “There is a time for …”
 If you are 30 years old, that means 262,800 hours, if you are 50 years old, 438,000, and if you are 80 years old, 700,800!