Hand over to God your schedules, daily planners and calendars
December 23, 2021
This article is the fifth and final piece in a five-part series on prayer, particularly for Advent, from Father Michael Voithofer, pastor of St. Benedict the Moor Parish in Omaha and leader of two prayer ministries: Ablaze Worship Ministry and a local campus of Encounter School of Ministry. Read the previous teachings by clicking on the links below.
Want to try something really bold?
Let God help you plan your day, making sure to include him in your schedule, says Father Voithofer.
Ask the Holy Spirit: “How do you want this day to unfold? How do you want me to order my day?”
Then be willing to change course and follow God’s plan, Father Voithofer said.
Praying and living boldly requires “changing your schedule so you can have time in your day to visit with Jesus in prayer,” he said. “If I don’t have time in my day to visit with God, I guarantee that my priorities aren’t right. … God would never want us to schedule a day where he’s not allowed into it.”
“… that’s a good thing to think about,” he said. “What does my day look like? Do I create time for God each day? And if not, ‘Holy Spirit, show me, lead me, guide me in restructuring my schedule so that God can be a part of it.’
“And again, I just encourage people to stop at the adoration chapel, because to me it’s like having the answer to everything in front of you at every one of our churches.”
Father Voithofer believes people get tired, anxious, depressed, angry, impatient and discouraged when they try to solve problems on their own.
These are bad fruits caused when people don’t live out their true identity as children of God, he said.
“If you’re in your identity, you’re going to be vulnerable to God’s care for you,” Father Voithofer said. “You’re going to be letting God help you make decisions each day. You’re not going to be making them on your own. And you’re going to feel a lot more peace and calm.
“What I’m sharing is a way of living,” he said. “This is not just a once a day thing. You’re starting to adopt this as a lifestyle. This is a lifestyle of really living as a disciple that we’re talking about.”
Sometimes the busy-ness of the holidays can sidetrack that lifestyle. The word busy can be an acronym: BUSY – Being Under Satan’s Yoke, Father Voithofer said. And being overly busy can suffocate a spiritual life.
Through prayer God breathes oxygen into our spiritual lives, he said. “So if you don’t pray, you’re not going to get oxygen and you’re going to struggle to breathe spiritually. You’re going to get fatigued and cranky. You’re going to get short-tempered with people. You’re going to react a lot in traffic, home and work. That is proof that I’m not listening to God. It’s hard to hear for some people, but that’s the truth.
“I can’t be listening to God if I’m cursing and being short with people, screaming at the children, fighting with my spouse and being irritated with everyone at work,” he said
“The reason I’m that way is because I’m too focused on controlling my day, my agenda, my schedule. And it’s not happening the way I want it, at my pace. And everyone else gets in my way. I get frustrated because it’s not getting done well.
“Did you ever think, maybe the Lord is saying ‘I don’t want you to clean your house today. Clean it tomorrow. I know you want to clean it today, but I’m asking you to sit with me for a half hour in the chapel right now.’
“‘You pick. You can do what you want or you can do what I’m asking you to do. You’ll see the fruits if you obey.’”
Father Voithofer said he sometimes presents a plan to the Holy Spirit then takes a moment to discern quietly. “What does that feel like in my spirit?”
If it’s a choice between shopping and stopping at the chapel to pray, he said, he’ll choose the option that’s giving him more peace. A feeling of guilt is not necessarily God speaking.
“God is more excited that you are actually doing this process with him,” Father Voithofer said. “He is excited when people ask: ‘God, will you help me make the decision you want me to make? Because I know you have the better choice for me.’
“Know a tree by its fruit,” he stressed. “So at the end of the day, check the fruits. If I ended up shopping and getting irritated and screaming at people when I came home, maybe I should have said ‘OK, maybe the Lord wanted me to be in the chapel.’ Then the next time you learn. Next time I’m going to try to discern better.”
“Sometimes we want to go to the store because that’s what we need to get stuff done,” he said. “But it’s not really the most important thing for God.”
At times the right choice is clear.
Everyone has certain duties in life, especially regarding their vocation. And those are non-negotiable, Father Voithofer said. “I have a duty to take care of my children. I have a duty to get up and go to work, unless I’m sick.”
Making time for prayer will make those duties and one’s efforts more efficient, he said. “You won’t be as distracted. You’ll actually have more peace.
“You can go shopping and hate it, or you can go shopping and enjoy it,” he said.
“If you’re prayed up and you’re with the Lord, your shopping goal is not to just get gifts. Your shopping goal is the Holy Spirit. Maybe there’s someone in the store that he wants me to love. My goal is not the store. My goal is while I’m at the store, how is the Lord inviting me to minister his love?”
“As Americans, we want to be productive a lot,” Father Voithofer said. “That’s not bad. Productivity is actually good, but productivity at the expense of my relationship with God is not good. It’s going to actually hurt our productivity.”
And that might mean bulldozing and hurting people, he said. “You’re going to do a lot more damage than good. You’re going to say things.
“Whereas if I have God and someone cuts me off in traffic, I’m not going to be as quick to yell and scream at them. I’m going to be like, ‘OK, Holy Spirit, thank you. Bless them.’”