The Portable Monastery

What is prayer? Saint John of Damascus said, “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God.” When someone asked Thomas Merton to reveal the one thing he should do to improve his prayer life, Merton responded: “Take the time.”

During Lent, we must consciously take the time to raise our hearts and minds to God. We seek communion with God through friendship and conversation. But how do we do this in our busy lives?

One thing I often recommend is praying in the car (or in the subway, bus, train, etc.) For those of us distracted by a thousand things, and who are constantly on the move, the car can be a bit like a monastic cell. It encloses you within a quiet, meditative space conducive to prayer. Also, as an added bonus, when you treat your car as a monastery, traffic becomes a welcome opportunity for more prayer and silence, rather than a cause of frustration.

Now, I understand this will be easier for some than others. For example, mothers of young children may have a difficult time cultivating a quiet space. But to the extent that you’re able, consider turning off the radio today. Put away your phone. Use your travel time to raise your mind and heart to God.

Maybe you pray the Rosary, or perhaps you converse with God about your day. But whatever you decide, take the time. Turn your car into a monastery.

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