Car rides an opportunity for prayer

by Michael V. Wilde

The drive from my home to school every morning is .99 miles. I know this because the bus service will not pick up students who are less than a mile from school. However, perhaps in the inconvenience of this policy, God’s providence has given way to grace. One of the difficulties – and in fact, often awkward challenges of parenting – is finding ways to extend prayer beyond meal time, bedtime, and Mass. These morning commutes with the kids has given me the opportunity for many prayers and moments to draw closer to God.

No matter how routine our morning, families always seem to be in a rush when it’s time to get out the door for school and work. All too often, we forget to slow down to thank God for the many blessings we have and to ask for his Spirit to guide us in our day. Once the car is in drive, a deep breath and a sign of the cross can change the tone for everyone and set the day off right.

While I certainly have maintained a pattern of prayer with my kids any time I drive them to school, there is no perfect prayer or method. The only essential component is to intentionally acknowledge God. Everyone has a favorite prayer, and each day might be different. These tips might help you incorporate prayer in your morning commute.

The acronym PRAY can guide your way. First, Praise. Offer gratitude and thanksgiving for your blessings (a good night’s sleep, a reliable vehicle, the sunshine, or much needed rain, or beautiful snow). If we only get as far as this expression of gratitude, we certainly have begun our day well. Reconciling is the second step. Unfortunately, begging for forgiveness has often been my time to apologize to my kids for being short with them. However, it is also – and primarily – an opportunity to reconcile with God for failing to use the gifts he entrusts to us. We pray for Another person, most often this is an ill family member, but occasionally is a classmate in need or someone from the news. The final step is to pray for Yourself. We seek the Lord’s intervention in our lives to empower us to be wise and successful in our responsibilities of the day. This formula can lead us to greater unity as a family and greater trust in God.

Some people, however, find less structured prayers cumbersome. For those individuals and families, we can turn to prayers inspired biblically or written by saints. The sign of the cross in itself is a prayer. In that moment, we declare all that we do is done “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” If we are going through difficulties, we might recite St. Bernard’s “Memorare” to recall that our Blessed Mother, as Mediatrix, will perfect our prayers and intercede for us in heaven as she did for the wedding couple at Cana. Another prayer relying on intercession is the prayer to our guardian angels, requesting their heavenly guidance throughout our day. Additionally, the “Glory Be” is most often used as a concluding prayer, but on “good days,” when all seems well and there’s not a care in sight, we do well to return that glory to the Father (creator of the universe), to the Son (redeemer of all), and to the Holy Spirit (the advocate and paraclete).

One of my particularly favorite devotions utilizes a rosary with the mysteries of each day on the Our Father beads. Even though the drive is less than a mile, we review each of the mysteries and, although we didn’t have time to pray each decade, a reflection on the title of the mystery (read aloud by one of the kids), helps us to know the truth of our Lord and his eternal plan.

Longer car rides allow us to dig more deeply. During Lent, my son and I were able to pray an entire divine mercy chaplet each day. Road trips to Grandma and Grandpa’s house gave us plenty of time to say an entire rosary and do so with a different intention during each mystery.

Of course, prayer in the car isn’t just limited to times with family. It is helpful when we have commutes of our own as well. Any of the above methods can be effective forms of prayer. A website named pray-as-you-go.org offers tremendous reflections on one of the readings of the day. There are countless devotions, and the reality is that most of us could spend the time in our car to improve our relationship with God.

Whether your commute is just under a mile, or 99 miles, it can be made more fruitful by intentionally including prayer on your journey.

Michael V. Wilde is a Listener Relationships Coordinator for Real Presence Radio. He previously served as the Director of Religious Education and Youth Ministry at St. Anthony in Fargo.