Everyone has a junk drawer. You know — it’s that drawer in your kitchen or entryway that holds all the flotsam and jetsam of life: pens, paperclips, rubber bands, small tools, ketchup packets, earplugs, etc., etc., etc.
We all know God is everywhere, but have you ever considered testing that hypothesis? If we were to list places where we’re least likely to find God, the junk drawer would have to be high on that list — it’s dusty and full of insignificant objects that wouldn’t be missed if they disappeared (until you have to find a tiny nail to hang a picture! or the right-sized battery for the remote control!).
But there’s something about the collection of items that ends up in a junk drawer that could be a creative source for prayer. Hear me out: what if we prayerfully connected the dots that brought all of those items to our drawer?
If you’re feeling like you’d like to take on a practice of prayer, but kneeling by your bed and folding your hands doesn’t feel right, it might be time to get creative with how you communicate with God. Praying with your junk drawer could break you out of a rut or jump-start a new connection with God.
You’ll need a bag — grocery bag, paper or gift bag, or a backpack. Spend about 10 minutes collecting some everyday objects and put those in your bag — they could come from your junk drawer or anything else that’s laying around. Here are a few suggestions: a battery, a pen, tissue paper, earbuds, matches, a flash drive, a library card, an old ID, a cross, a stone, some change, measuring tape, a receipt. You can start with just a few and add more objects later.
How to pray with these items
Leave your bag by the door. In the morning, when you leave, pick out an object and put it in your pocket to take with you. In the course of the day, look at the object, hold it and focus on it with no particular agenda — if nothing else, it will serve as a reminder to pray at some point during your day.
When the time seems right and you have a few moments of quiet — maybe during your commute, maybe during lunch or break time — invest some energy to directly pray with the object.
Begin by asking the Holy Spirit to be with you and guide you in this time of prayer. Keep it simple — you can just say, “Holy Spirit, be with me during this prayer, open my mind and my heart, and guide me in truth and honesty. Amen.”
Start by thoughtfully considering the object — What is it? What do you use it for? What attracted you to it? What is it made of? How did it come to you?
Make a connection to a situation or person in your life, and simply have a conversation with God exploring one of the questions that arises, sharing with God what is in your heart. When a person or idea or word or phrase strikes you, apply it to your life and communicate with God about it.
Here’s an example of how this might go: “I use my earbuds to listen to music, which I enjoy, and to tune out other noises (and people). Hmm. Who are the people in my life whom I listen to? Whom am I tuning out? What about God’s voice in my life? When do I listen to God’s voice?” Then, I might pick any one of those questions and talk to the Lord more about it.
Ideally, allow some time to listen for the Lord’s response once you are done sharing your own thoughts and feelings on that question. And when you are done, as you hold that object, just sit for a moment in silence and rest in God’s presence.
When you return home, you can put the object back in the bag. The next day, you can either pick another object, or you can take the same object again if you feel like there is more you want to explore in connection to the questions it raised.
Be gentle with yourself — and honest
If you find that at the end of the day, you never got around to praying with your object, don’t let that discourage you from trying again tomorrow. In an ideal world, we would all devote time to reflective prayer, but sometimes, that doesn’t happen — and that’s the way it is, no use beating yourself up about it. Recognize that reflective prayer requires some mental and emotional energy in addition to time, and sometimes you just aren’t there. It doesn’t make you a bad person nor does it mean you don’t or can’t pray — it just won’t be 15 minutes of reflective prayer.
So be gentle with yourself — but also honest. If you find that you are consistently not devoting time to reflective prayer, ask yourself whether it is truly because you are so busy and stressed and overworked, or because you are avoiding it.
Sometimes, we are a mystery to ourselves: on the one hand, we want to pray, but at the same time we avoid it. What’s up with that? It happens, and it may be happening to you. When this happens to me, I just start — I don’t worry about finishing or getting distracted or getting through all of it; I just focus on starting and showing up, so to speak. Usually, that’s enough to get me over whatever mental or emotional block I’ve worked up.
Pro-tip: Write down your thoughts
If you are so inclined, add a journaling component. Keep it simple. In a notebook, write down three things: the date, the object you prayed with, and one takeaway. After a while, you can pray with the notebook, looking back to see what you notice. It is likely there’ll be a theme or insight that repeats, something you might want to pay attention to.
This prayer is about self-reflection and examination, and its practice will help you grow in self-knowledge, which is important in general and also in our spiritual lives. Deepening our self-knowledge is a gift, but it is an even greater one when this knowledge is acquired in the context of our relationship with God, the One who created us and made us who we are and has been there with us every moment of our lives. God loves us unconditionally and wants nothing more than for us to reach our full potential, which we can only do if we know ourselves — including the good, bad, and ugly parts.