You woke up this morning - what does that tell you? You have another 24 hours to enjoy your gift of life - handed to you alone! - in an even more profound way than you enjoyed life yesterday. The good china. The cake. The trip. The late movie. A new book by a favorite author. A chance that you were afraid to take until now. For tomorrow is never promised. Tomorrow may be your leap into eternity. Your training ground for eternal happiness is here! Your capacity for joy in eternity is deepened and prepared for right here - today.
You might say, confused, "I thought St. Paul said to "pray always." Isn't praying serious business? How can having fun be prayer?
St. Teresa of Avila, that magnificent pray-er, knew that enjoying life is praying - because when we're enjoying life as a gift God gives us, and lovingly thanking a loving God for the gift, God's responding joy rebounds through us, intensifying our enjoyment. (Especially, for me, my latest murder mystery novel and a hot roast beef sandwich.) St. Teresa did everything with great gusto, and famously said, "May God protect me from gloomy saints."
When we are plugged into God's joy - for God delights in us! - everything can percolate with its own aroma of happiness and inner peace. Even the most boring or ordinary or repetitive jobs can give us happiness - because we're doing them out of love FOR someone. Every article of clothing we toss into the washer reminds us of the beloved person who wears it. The peaches we can in Mason jars, the hamburgers we place on the hot grill, remind us of the loved ones who'll eat them with a smile. Painting a room pays loving homage to our family that will use it and pays loving homage to the God Who gave us our house or apartment.
The Desert Fathers (along with Desert Mothers) were early Christian hermits, ascetics, and monks, who lived mainly in the Scetes desert of Egypt beginning around the third century AD. Now, what enjoyment could they find in a desert? Didn't they find the same landscape to look at all the time boring? Nope. They found God and prayer and joy both everywhere they looked, and in everything they did. But of course they had to focus on what they were experiencing and intentionally see it as coming from God, and then focus on what they were doing as a love offering to God. Because they trusted in God so much, they knew that everything they experienced, everything they did, had purpose; everything, every day, had eternal worth. What filled their days with purpose and joy prepared them for the fulfillment of heaven.
Perhaps your life seems like a boring, monotonous desert instead of an exciting adventuresome cruise ship. Do you know what? The most beautiful flowers grow in the desert. The rocks can glow in the sunlight. There can be hidden springs of water. The unending silence can stir your soul. Life is not only what is given to us, but our attitude towards what we've been given.
Perhaps you think that prayer can only happen in Church or at a retreat house because life is too distracting, too filled with worry, and you can't be saying the "Our Father" when someone is crying in your arms.
But if you believe and trust that God is with you every moment and God is IN every moment, and if you intend to stay close to God, then every moment is a prayer, no matter what you're thinking, feeling, or doing. Every moment, even the saddest ones, has a hidden spring of grace to water our souls. Every person we hold carries God within him or her, and so we cuddle God.
Fr. Richard Rohr tells us: "An old abba was asked what was necessary to do to be saved. He was sitting making rope. Without glancing up, he said, “You’re looking at it.” Just as so many of the mystics have taught us, doing what you’re doing with presence and intention is prayer. As other spiritual teachers have taught in many forms, 'When we walk, we walk; when we chop wood, we chop wood; when we sleep, we sleep.' As you know, this is much harder than it first seems."
So we could add to those insights, "when we eat cake, we eat cake; when we watch a great movie, we watch a great movie; when we kiss the kids goodnight, we kiss the kids goodnight; when we listen to an opera, we listen to an opera; when we camp out and make s'mores, we camp out and make s'mores; when we take a trip, we take a trip; when we go to a wake, we go to a wake; when we make love, we make love." All of our lives, we can be present to our God Who is the Gift-Giver. All of our life can and should be prayer.
When everything - everything! reminds us of God, speaks or sings to us of God, nudges us towards God, tastes with the sweetness or tang of God, when even sad and bitter events in our life remind us to be united to the Lord's Passion in trust of being united to his Resurrection - we are walking the way to Heaven, and finding Heaven along the way.
Abba Hyperechius said, “Let your thoughts be ever in the kingdom of heaven and soon you will possess it as a heritage.”
When you go to sleep tonight, think of the day you have just been given. Did you live it to the fullest? Did you enjoy even the most ordinary moments? Did you risk and experiment and create, love, tickle, and laugh, as much as you possibly could? Did you try to honestly connect with every person, no matter how sad or difficult they seemed? Did you commit yourself to being present to every single blessed moment, even the most boring or awful, because it came from God and had eternal worth and purpose - and, by God, it was and is YOUR LIFE, after all?
Time passes so quickly, you literally do not even notice it until it begins to slow. If tomorrow comes for you, remember: the time is now. The next Tomorrow is promised to no one. Enjoy tomorrow as a priceless Gift to you from God, - for no one else! Every step you take tomorrow is a step into eternity. So let every moment be a prayer. Pray always - with enjoyment. Your enjoyment - or lack of it - decides whether you walk into an eternity of distrust and bitterness, or you walk into eternal Joy!