How Pizza Helped My Prayer Life
For years, I’ve struggled to develop a prayer life. Probably through a combination of a lack of discipline and an abundance of energy, I’ve only been able to watch with envy as Mormon, Catholic and Protestant friends spent 15, 30 or even 60 minutes in prayer, Bible reading, etc. — and all at the same time, to boot!
It took pizza for me to finally realize how to pray.
Traditional Routes Didn’t Work
I don’t imagine all of these people came to lengthy and/or deep prayer practices easily. I started going to Daily Mass in 2013, only to trail off for a few months in late 2015 and early 2016 as the extra attendance was not only lacking spiritual satisfaction, but also causing me to appreciate Mass less.
Once a week Mass attendance had brought measurable value, but somehow attending several times per week with high expectations brought mostly disappointment.
This led to significant spiritual frustration. Prayer certainly isn’t defined by sitting still with God. It is simply being with His Will, and that can happen while physically in motion or not. But it doesn’t hurt to find a way to sit with Him, just as Christ did throughout Scripture.
So why couldn’t I do it?
Over time, I realized that during my times of prayer, I was subconsciously telling God to give me the answers I want — giving Him orders to do things on my time, not His. To paraphrase a charismatic Catholic friend, a choleric prays in this way: “God, tell me what to do. Right now. I’ll do it really well. I swear.”
According to that same friend, I had the order wrong: God creates the relationship. Our job is to be open to it.
This wise point provided little but a frustrating contradiction for me — how can I actively pray in a way that subordinates my will to that of God’s? And aren’t we supposed to put forth effort, vis-à-vis free will?
One priest advised me to begin praying a scheduled 30 minutes per day — as the beginning of my journey towards God. I’d always thought 30 minutes per day was somewhere around mile 900 on the proverbial 1,000-mile journey! Once again, my efforts failed — I maintained 30 minutes per day for about a week, and the first few days’ worth of spiritual comfort was buried under frustration as I once again failed to stay on track.
Enter the pizza.
The Power of Pizza
Generally speaking, there are three steps to making a pizza — buy the ingredients, put them into the form of a pizza and then cook it.
Consider three ingredients: onions, pepperoni and peppers. They all taste pretty good on their own. They are like the nuggets of wisdom that God provides us during the day, if we’re open to them.
The second step of making a pizza is putting the ingredients onto the pizza. If we take the “ingredients” of prayer and put them onto the “pizza” — ourselves — we might get a bite or two that tastes even better than the ingredients did on their own.
But it takes the third step for a pizza to become worthy of the name — it must be cooked in the oven, in a fashion that is both structured (turn to 400 degrees, for 25 minutes) and organic (how many of us calculate exactly how each pepperoni or pepper will settle into the cheese?).
Likewise, we can only grow closer to God the more time we spend with Him, in prayer styles that combine structure and our own individual path — the “oven” of prayer, if you will.
For me, a five-step Ignatius daily reflection seems to work, combining some structure with room for my personality to come through in the analysis and organic reflection on the day. This reflection tag-teams well with a better understanding of how to more effectively pray during daily Mass and a fiancée who prioritizes the Rosary and other methods of actively coming closer to God.
I’m still not up to 20 minutes per day seven days a week, and I don’t get to the reflection each day. But I’m improving, thanks to pizza.