Can a "Martha" Have a Good Prayer Life?

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Image courtesy of Tami Kiser. All rights reserved.

 

Ok, you’ve heard me say it before: “I’m such a Martha!” And I often complain to God about making me like this. I just always feel so compelled to be busy doing something. It kills me to sit still and do what seems like “nothing.” And this is often how I view prayer—just sitting still, doing nothing. Yet I know from studying the Christian faith and from my own experience that prayer is crucial to growing closer to God. How can you be in a relationship with someone if you don’t have a conversation with him? You can’t.

I also know that prayer is NOT doing “nothing.” Far from it. Prayer is powerful. Not only does it draw us closer to God, but He really does listen, just like He promises. . . “Ask and you will receive. . .”

 And so throughout my entire Christian life, I’ve struggled with making prayer a part of my daily life. And it hasn’t been easy. Like all aspects of our faith walk, my attempt at daily prayer seems like 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. Sometimes it’s been great. Other times, not so good.

So since God has made me with these Martha-like qualities (this is the Martha from the Bible story who tries to get Jesus to reprimand her sister for just sitting and listening to him, but yet she gets corrected for her busy-body and worrisome attitude) I decided that I could use some of those qualities to improve my prayer life.  

Here are some suggestions for those of us with Martha-like tendencies:

  • Use shorter segments of time. Since I don’t like to sit still for any length of time, I keep my prayer sessions short and sweet. For me, just knowing that I am going to spend just 10 or 15 minutes in prayer is freeing. It makes it very doable. Giving 10 minutes is not going to keep me from getting any big projects done that day, and it’s not going to give me much more sleep. Sure, there are women who like to give 45-60 minutes every morning in prayer and meditation to our Lord, but I am not one of them. God bless everyone who has both the time and discipline to do it. I’ve learned not to beat myself up for not living my prayer life this way. Instead, I try to consistently keep my shorter times of prayer with Jesus and to really throw my whole self into it for that brief amount of time.
  • Use planned material. Marthas like to know precisely what they’re doing, and where they’re going. For people like me who like it all mapped out, the church has the perfect solution. In fact, the church has been using this method for centuries. It’s called the Liturgy of the Hours. The church has set times and set prayers for every day. You can buy one of these prayer books or use an online version or App. Although I do enjoy using the Liturgy of the Hours (and I don’t use every prayer time they suggest), I find that I am drawn to a similar approach using the prayer book called, The Magnificat. For me, it seems a little simpler and a little shorter, plus, I like to read the daily gospel readings with the short meditations they provide. On a good day, this is how I use my Magnificat to pray. When I get up in the morning, I say some kind of morning offering, then I open my Magnificat and pray the morning prayer.  There is a place to pray for personal intentions so this is where I insert all the concerns of my family and friends. (Takes 10-15 minutes) Next, around noon, I try to read the daily Gospel reading from the Mass and read the short meditation in The Magnificat (Takes about 10 minutes.)  Finally, before bed, I do the evening prayer with my husband. Before drifting off to sleep, I perform a short Examen, Ignatius style. (Worth looking into if you haven’t done one before.)
  • Go to Mass. For Marthas, we like structure and purpose we can touch and see. So for me, I like the tangibleness of Mass. Like I mentioned before, just sitting and meditating is very difficult for me to do, yet I do truly desire to be with my Lord. Attending Mass is a simple way to just come, follow along, and be with our Lord. It’s a directed sitting and meditation that is easier for me to do. In fact, Mass, according to the catechism, is the greatest prayer we can pray AND we get to have real communion with him, not just a conversation. Marthas, since we can get caught up in our business and often have trouble sitting down for prayer, would do well to attend an extra Mass every week.
  • Adoration, too. It is true that at adoration you are forced to sit still and quiet—so maybe that’s why I suggest this. We are forced to sit still and be quiet. And let’s face it, this is good for everyone. Marthas, probably more than anyone else, need time to sit still and listen to God. So for me, since doing this in my home is far too distracting. There’s always someone or something calling for my attention. I need to go to a place where I can’t answer my phone or feel compelled to pick up that out-of-place crayon. I have also found it helpful to sign up for a particular hour every week. One thing Marthas do well is to follow a schedule. So I get it on my schedule. And speaking of schedules. . .
  • Schedule, schedule, schedule. Like I just mentioned, Marthas follow lists and schedules very well. We thrive on checking off a list.  So why not make set prayer times and activities part of your schedule? If it makes you feel better—write it on your list and check it off.  Morning Prayer. Mass. Check.
  • Finally, multitask by keeping the conversation going with Jesus while you go about your daily chores and work. We Marthas love getting two things done at the same time. Pray and do the dishes. Pray and take the kids to school. Pray and  make lunch. Remembering to pray throughout your day is not an easy thing to do, but I find that by keeping my scheduled prayer times with The Magnificat, Mass, adoration, etc., I am much more likely to keep the conversation going with Jesus throughout the rest of my day.

So maybe it’s not so bad being a Martha. After all, God has made us with these Martha-like characteristics. It’s up to us to use these gifts to serve Him and not fall into the trap of letting our Martha tendencies keep us from finding and being with Jesus.

If you, too, are more like Martha, than Mary, have any of these methods helped you to grow closer to Jesus?

Copyright 2015 Tami Kiser.
Photo copyright 2015 Tami Kiser. All rights reserved.

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About Author

Tami is the author Smart Martha's Catholic Guide for Busy Moms and the founder of www.smartmartha.com. She lives in Greenville, SC with her husband of 29 years.  She has 10 children:  8 boys and 2 girls ranging in age from 27 to 4. She also has 5 grandchildren.   Tami runs the Smart Martha ministry, CatholicFamilyCelebrations.com, the CatholicMosaic.com, and teaches dance classes.  Thinking like a Smart Martha has helped her to constantly seek to “sit at Christ’s feet” even in the midst of piles of laundry and sinks of dirty dishes. Visit Tami at www.smartmartha.com.

6 Comments

  1. This is great. I am a “Martha” too, and I sometimes beat myself up because I can’t figure out how to pray like a “Mary.” Thank you for reminding me that I am NOT a “Mary” and that’s OK, and to pray the way I was made to pray.

  2. So helpful. Thank you for the insight. I think short breaks for prayer serve us Marthas well. I’m going to keep that in mind.

  3. Thank you for this. I am a Martha and I too will try to remind myself that it’s ok. I have a prayer reminder on my phone lol. I too will add the book to my wish list .

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