It has become a commonplace in busy lives and in the business place that multitasking is a positive good. The ability to juggle the phone, the computer, a conversation at your desk and preparing for the next meeting is no longer something merely admirable. It is often required to get a job.
But there are daily reminders of the danger of multitasking. There are repeated warnings that conversing on cell phones while driving is becoming a cause of accidents that exceeds intoxication as a cause. Burnt dinners, iron-seared clothing, even missing children can all be attributed to the plague of multitasking that afflicts American society.
There is another ill, far more serious than most of those listed above, that stems from multitasking--wan and sere prayer lives, etiolated communication with the source of love and light.
Prayer demands presence, complete presence. It is very easy, too often, to pray while eating breakfast or while send the children off to school. Now, these events do require prayer, as do all things; however, if this is the only prayer time one has, one's communications with God will be necessarily foreshortened, straightened, and indistinct.
How many of us take the time to, in the words of this mornings petitions, "With single-minded devotion we dedicate the beginnings of this day to honor of your resurrection?" Single-minded devotion? Is it even possible in this day and age to be single minded? I don't refer here to the distraction that come when one sets oneself aside for prayer--they will come and there is, in the course of prayer, much to help the pray-er move on. I refer more to those who "don't have time for prayer." Or for whom prayer is a secondary , hasty background consideration. It is easy enough to console oneself with the thought that "work is prayer," and properly done, that is true. However, prayer is also prayer, and the old adage is often an excuse for not making the time to pursue intimate prayer.
Perhaps you have had the experience of being invited out by a friend or a cherished family member only to have the cell-phone ring (sometimes many times) and call away your friend. The experience is frustrating and painful. Your conversation is fragmentary and goes in leaps and bounds from one subject to another as truncated by the cell-phone calls. And even though the friend apologizes each time he or she answers, there's something a little insincere in it--no one really needs to be so connected that they are in reality disconnected from all. This is the model for many lives of prayer. We sit down to the luncheon table and start to talk. The cell-phone rings rather than glancing at the number and noting it for a return call, we pick up the phone and start talking. Sometimes we never return to the One whom we've invited to dine with us. Sometimes we come back after a while, forgetting where we were and what we were doing.
Prayer throughout the work of the day is a good thing--that isn't what I refer to. What I refer to is the fact that we "have no time for prayer." When we sit down to pray, we immediately rise to some other task that could easily wait twenty minutes. Prayer has no priority in our busy-busy lives.
And intimate prayer requires monotasking. Anything else is like making love while watching Jay Leno--hardly flattering to either one's partner or to Jay. Prayer is the intimate intrusion that we must allow to grow in God's love and to become like Christ. It requires everything we are to be focused for a while on God. And there should be sufficient time to really talk to God and hear what He has to say to us. To begin with 20-30 minutes. As time goes on, greater amounts of time.
I haven't done it yet, but I've considered asking any person who tells me that there isn't time for this kind of prayer in their lives, "How much television do you watch? How much time do you spend knitting, crocheting, reading books, playing sports, playing cards, drinking beer (outside of dinner), gardening, . . ?" You get the point. There is always time for prayer if it is a priority. There never will be time so long as it is a secondary consideration.