Doing one thing at a time might be the best prayer we can offer some days.
I’ll speak for myself and maybe you can relate. I’m so used to multi-tasking and constantly thinking of three things at once that it’s infrequent that I focus on one task at a time. I can be checking my email and social media while cleaning up the kitchen or picking up toys. I can start the laundry while talking on the phone. I can go from one browser to another on the computer. I can listen to a podcast while walking the dog or driving. Even while writing this piece, I can write while checking email or any comments to my FB status. Having young children in the house means that much of the time I have to multitask. The preschooler needs her shoes put on while the baby wants to be held. Food needs to be made while someone wants a book read to them.
There’s so much that can take our time. And so much temptation to do it all at the same time.
And sometimes prayer seems like one of those things that we can do while we’re doing all the other things. And much of the time that works. And it’s enough and good and lifegiving to pray while in the midst of our days. To offer prayers while driving or cleaning and cooking. Those are beautiful prayers and beautiful times to offer our attention to God. In the midst of our day-to-day lives.
But sometimes, perhaps, we need to have a reason to slow down. To not do all the things. But rather to do one thing. To focus. To pay attention. To turn ourselves to one thing at a time.
It could be anything, really.
Our prayer could be the time and attention we give to washing the dishes. Only washing the dishes. To feel the water on our hands. To give thanks for the people who joined us in the meal. To reflect on all those who’ve used the dishes you wash. To think about who will come and use the cleaned dishes.
These are our prayers. The prayers for washing dishes and only that.
Or perhaps we sit and watch our children play. With no phones or thoughts of what’s next, but simply watching children play. Giving thanks for fresh air. Giving thanks for the energy and excitement of youth. Being present to the bench we sit on and the feel of the air on our faces.
These are our prayers. The prayers for watching children play and only that.
Or perhaps it’s reading a book. A paper book. One you can feel and touch and smell. A book that transports us to new places and experiences new ideas. A book that allows us to sit. A book that offers prayers for words and stories. A book that offers prayers for quiet reading.
There are our prayers. The prayers for reading a book and only that.
Doing one thing at a time can be our prayer. Paying attention is that easy. It just takes some practice. It takes intentionality. It takes finding one thing and letting everything else fall away.
It takes opening ourselves to the prayers God will offer us.
Prayers God gives to us in silence and stillness.
Prayers God gives to us in washing and cleaning and cooking.
Prayers God gives to us when we pay attention.
And see the beauty in our midst.
So that all we can say is Amen.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website: http://kimberlyknowlezeller.com or follow her work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyKnowleZeller/