It is state mandated that every school in Arkansas must have a one minute moment of silence before the school day. That moment is used to either reflect on the day to come, to do something quietly or to pray.
Usually when you look around the room at my high school during this minute, you can easily see that most people use this moment to scroll one last time through Snapchat, scribble answers on the homework they forgot about or even set their head on their desk to try and catch up on the sleep they missed the night before.
I can count on one hand the people I have seen who actually pray during that moment of silence. Or if they have prayed, I’ve never been able to notice. I find that devastating. As a teenager who is constantly busy and overwhelmed, I know how hard it can be to “catch up” on praying.
My prayer life has always been strong but there are always times when I feel too busy to pray or to talk to God. A mistake far too many people make. Life gets busy. That happens. Life is chaotic. That’s guaranteed. But ironically we decide to stop praying in order to fix that. In an attempt to create time in our lives, we disregard the one aspect that can truly help us feel free. We forget that our faith and that God should come before any material object or free time recreation.
When I first started high school, I found it increasingly hard to both fit in and make time for my prayer life. My high school has more than 5,000 students, so needless to say you want to fit in rather than get lost in the crowd. I told myself that I had to choose.
I had to choose between being a teenager with a social life and having a strong prayer life. I convinced myself that my prayer life is something that can be easily removed because God would understand. My grades are physical, friends are physical, being social is physical, prayer is not. This is probably why so many people cut their prayer life to virtually nothing. When something is not physically in front of us, we forget about it. That includes our faith.
Our faith needs to be a priority, not an afterthought. But, this is a problem that can be fixed. It can be changed in one moment. Just simply decide that you want to have a relationship with God. Choose to include him in your life.
Praying doesn’t require a chapel or a kneeler. A simple sign of the cross or “Lord be with me today” is all that is needed.
I had a phenomenal priest last year, Father Rick Hobbs, who told my parish that every day is a blessing from God. That every morning the first thing we should all do is the sign of the cross, because every day is another day that he gave you. Every day you wake up on this earth is a day he wants you to achieve something. Every breath you take is because he willed that breath. He gave you another day, so why can’t we take a moment to talk to him?
Eventually, I realized my miscalculation. Being social and being faithful should not amount to two separate lives. They should equal one. I began to pray again. I started just by talking to God in those mandated, silent, 60 seconds before school. I would say Pope Francis’ five finger prayer because having a planned prayer helped introduce me to prayer again. The prayer includes praying for family and friends, parents and teachers, leaders, the weakest in society and yourself, represented by each finger.
As I continued every morning, I also added a prayer before bed, this time just a conversation with God about what I was thinking. Now, I cannot count how many times I pray for patience, grace or help in a single day.
I like to think of God as the best friend you tell everything to because that’s exactly what he is. He is always there for us, despite the fact that we sometimes give him the silent treatment. I realized that even though I strayed from taking to God, he was always there to listen. What other kind of friend would you want?
This process and idea opened a door to a completely different prayer life. It no longer felt like an obligation to pray. It took a weight off of my shoulder and helped me to understand that my life isn’t separated into two fractions. My life and my faith are one together.
As humans, we are flawed, imperfect and open to sin. We get distracted. Yet, he is still there with open arms to hear us. You don’t have to give up your entire social life or your free time to talk to God. Just give him a moment out of your day to hear you, to love you.
Something I’ve learned, and something that everyone eventually will, is that there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything. But you should give some of the time you have, back to the person who gave it to you in the first place.
Ardyn Townzen is a junior at Bentonville High School. She attends St. Stephen Church in Bentonville.
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