Not long ago, when I mentioned in confession that sometimes I was negligent about or inattentive during my prayer times, the priest said I needed to see my work as my prayer.
Now, I do actually try to offer up my work—as well as my play, my joys and my sorrows—as a prayer. But this idea of working as one's only form of prayer is not such a good one.
Isn't that the point of today's Gospel? Jesus didn't say to Mary: "Go help your sister, and that will be as good as listening to me." Nor did He say to Martha: "What you're doing is wrong. Stop it, and get in here." He said that Mary had chosen the better part, not the only worthwhile part.
We all need to do some work. We are embodied spirits, not angels. We have to attend to our physical lives and taking care of others too. So yes, we should work, and as members of the Body of Christ, we can join our work to His and consecrate it, make it a prayer. Absolutely, that is a beautiful and worthwhile thing to do.
But we need to give God some undivided attention too. Yes, we can pray throughout the day, talking to Him as we go about our business. That's great. But it's not enough.
A husband and wife can fulfill their family responsibilities individually and together, and talk about logistics and solving problems like the plumbing—all that is good, but not enough. They need to have some couple time too. They need to look at one another and talk about deeper things, reaffirm their love for one another, share what's burdening them, share their joys. Be there for each other.
So also in our relationship with God, we need to spend some one-on-one time with Him. He doesn't need to hear our burdens and our joys, but He wants to. And we need to share them with Him. We also need to hear what He has to say. We have so much to learn. And it's always nice to hear again His message of love and mercy.
This little exchange sums it up well:
Jack asked a monk, "Can I smoke a pipe while I'm praying?"
"Can I pray while I'm smoking a pipe?"
Yes, involve God in every moment of your day, whether you're working or playing. But also set aside some time just for Him.
He deserves it.
And we need it.