It’s Lent and each year, my goal during this special time is to spend more time with God. I’d like to say I’ve always been wildly successful with this but I can’t. I remember back when I was a teacher in a Catholic school. It was SO much easier but even then, I was in awe of my fellow teacher, Sister Mary Diane. Besides everything we did in school, she attended daily Mass through Lent, driving 45 minutes each way.
Then, she added 2 hours of silent meditation each day to her normal schedule of prayer. Whew. I simply don’t know how to do my job, take care of my home, and spend time with my family while adding in all of that. That’s when I started coming up with my own (quicker, easier) suggestions for how to find more time for God during this Lenten season. Best of all, I can even apply these ideas all year long!
I began by applying the premise we used at school for planning our curriculum. God is present all the time, in everything we do. So, even if we weren’t specifically teaching “Religion” class, we could invite God into our other subject matter too. We looked for the hand of God in historical events, in the perfection of mathematical operations, in the miracle of scientific concepts. So, God is with me whether I am cleaning the house or scheduling social media posts for my clients or taking care of my grandson. If you are looking for ways to find more for God, start simply by adding Him in (or at least, your awareness of Him) to everything you do throughout your day.
Creative and Practical Ways to Find More Time for God in Your Busy Schedule:
1) Take a little bit of time – even just 10 minutes – to write down some Bible verses and inspirational quotes on index cards.
Here’s a list of 25 Bible verses to get you started. Every time I see or hear a quote that really resonates with me, I jot it down as an easy way to add to my “collection”. I post these quotes EVERYWHERE. On mirrors, doors, in a little frame on my bedside table, in my day planner, over the baby’s change table – any spot that I see on a regular basis. When I see the quote, I take a minute (longer if I have time and feel so inclined but otherwise literally 30 seconds to a minute) to let the words wash over me and to feel God’s presence around me.
2) I often listen to music or podcasts while working (on my business or around my house). It’s a really simple switch to choose specifically Christian music and podcasts instead of my usual.
I’ve made my own playlist on Youtube but you could also do a simple web search for Christian radio stations and podcasts available online. This list of 5 Christian podcasts gave me a good starting point. Tip: You can listen in the car too. If you’re travelling with your family, pick some kid-friendly Christian content to listen to and enrich their Lenten experience too!
3) Are you a TV fan? An obvious idea is to give up television – or even just one show a day – and spend that time in prayer instead.
But, that’s not always a feasible option for everyone. Instead, what about replacing one show a day with some of the faith-based content on Netflix? Here are some great ideas to get you started.
4) Pray before each meal.
This is something we always did in my family when I was little but as we all got older, it seemed to just fade away. Saying the blessing before we eat is so simple and takes almost no time, but it’s a great way to acknowledge our Lord’s role in providing for our needs. Extend this idea by thanking God for your clothing as you get dressed each morning, thank Him for the day as you get ready for bed at night. Prayers don’t need to be complicated. Even just pausing for 10 seconds to say the words “Thank you God” is a good start.
5) When our dog was still here, if the weather was good, I used to go outside with her first thing each morning. I’d use the opportunity to get some sun on face, breathe in a little fresh air, and spend 5 minutes just thinking about God.
Next, I would run through my to do list in my head and ask Him to be with me in each of my dealings for the day to come. I’d also ask Him what He wanted of me that day. If other thoughts crept in (oh this is going to be a crazy day, I don’t know how I’m going to get through my to do list), I’d stop and ask Him to give me strength and wisdom for it. Now I do this while doing my morning yoga routine. You could do this during your morning shower.
6) Create some “prayer cues”.
Every time I hear a siren, I offer up a quick prayer for those involved. When I pass by a church, I do a quick sign of the cross and say a Hail Mary or Glory Be. If we drive past a church, I pray for the dead. There are lots more triggers that you can use as a cue to take 15 seconds and say a prayer. Do you have a habit of fiddling with your wedding ring? Every time you catch yourself doing that, say a prayer for your spouse. When I hear my grandson giggle, I say a prayer for him. Years ago, my mom gave me a prayer box necklace. I could write a prayer request on a tiny slip of paper and put it inside the box. (I used to wear it when teaching and my students would ask me to put prayer requests in it for them). Each time I thought of or touched the necklace, I prayed my request. So, during Lent, every time I see or hear something about this season (Lent, Ash Wednesday, Easter, Good Friday, fasting, and so on), I pray to have a closer relationship with God.
7) Create a prayer/Bible study basket or bag.
I actually have more than one. I have two baskets. One is kept next to my bed and another in the living room but they are easily carried to another room or out into the backyard. The bag is smaller and even more portable so it’s perfect for school pickup lines or doctor’s waiting rooms. Think of all of those little bits of time that might otherwise be wasted – in the kitchen waiting for the pasta water to boil or the oven to preheat, for example – and use those to spend time with God. See what I put into my baskets/bags here.
8) In each of the classrooms at the schools where I taught, we had what we referred to as our “beautiful tables”. In essence, these were like small altars or shrines – a place to focus on God’s love and share His beauty with each other.
I carried this idea over into my own house and we have often had several home altars at any given time. These are great places to place a Bible or other spiritual books (I like to keep a Concordance on one of mine) so that everyone knows where to find these books when the desire strikes. Get the kids involved by letting them decorate the table with things they think are beautiful. When my daughter was little, it wasn’t unusual to find Curious George or Paddington Bear residing on our altar. We would also place candles there and hold brief candlelit prayer times together from time to time (for a while, it was part of our everyday bedtime routine). You can also include a container of holy water, blessed salt, or anointing oil and offer blessings for each other before heading out in the world. This is a good place to leave love notes and prayer requests for each other too. Other additions could include: rosaries, holding crosses, prayer cubes, living plants to be nurtured, palm leaves (from Palm Sunday), ashes (as a reminder of Ash Wednesday), and symbols or artwork of Jesus or some favorite saints.
9) Do you go for a daily walk? Make it a praise walk.
We have a prayer garden nearby that includes a labyrinth and that makes for an easy way to meditate while getting in some exercise. But even without a labyrinth, it’s simple to be on the lookout for signs of God while strolling along. Thank God for the birds and other wildlife you see, praise each of your neighbours as you pass by, or just use the time for a quiet one-on-one with Him.
10) Do you work from home like I do? Set several alarms on your phone.
Use these to take a 10-15 minute break from your work every couple hours. I get up, move around, get a drink of water, and say a quick prayer. It’s a great way to reenergize and regroup before you take on the next part of your day!
11) Observe the “no meat” abstinence days during Lent.
I find that every time I eat on those days, my thoughts are drawn towards God. By consciously choosing not to eat meat, I remember WHY I am doing that. I spend even just a few minutes reflecting on all God has done for me. I’m planning to extend this by making every Friday (except for feast days and special family occasions) meat free as well.
12) Observe the Sabbath.
This doesn’t have to be complicated! If you can’t take a full 24 hours to unplug and unwind, how about taking Sunday afternoon? When my daughter was little, we would often go to church and then out for brunch. When we got home, we’d have quiet time (which often morphed into nap time). Then we’d spend the rest of the afternoon doing something fun (but simple) as a family. Board games, a movie and popcorn, making a craft together, or even just getting down on the floor and playing. During Lent, Sundays are meant to be days of festive celebration among the quieter reflection of the season.
My personal belief is that sometimes we try to complicate our relationships with God. Personally, my tendency towards “perfectionism or nothing” has gotten in the way many times in the past. I got overwhelmed by my own lofty plans and simply abandoned them all. I want to improve, but I believe with every step, no matter how small, God is cheering me on.
Looking for more Lenten resources? Start here with 10 Things You Probably Do Not Know about Lent.