“A Refreshing Place Away from Home…While Within Your Home: The Prayer Corner”
Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
The “prayer corner” is a venerable tradition especially among the Russian Orthodox but it also has its own place among Roman Catholics. During this current time of more-or-less lockdown, a prayer corner in your home could help you retain your sanity, enrich your relationships with those of your household, encounter the living God, and bring His peace and joy into the rest of your life.
Healthy relationships involve unity and distinction—closeness and space. Hence we need a little space from one another at times; and with that healthy distinction from others, comes a richer unity. I remember growing up: when my dad needed a little space, he often went to the garage or the “man cave.” When my mother needed some space, she often turned to the telephone. These can be good ways of maintaining some healthy space and distinction in the midst of the togetherness of the household. Another possibility that I would like to suggest, however, is the prayer corner.
The prayer corner is a sacred space set apart in your household, decorated in whatever way appeals to you and increases your devotion. It is a sanctuary of peace and prayer, even if it be but a corner of some room. This prayer haven is a wonderful place to begin your morning, offering the first fruits of your day to the Lord. It is also a way to take refuge in the Lord throughout the day, as you return to it for a few moments now and then. In the midst of busy-ness, anxiety, and social-overload, the prayer corner can provide something of a “sabbath reset.” There we can reset our minds from our various preoccupations and concerns and re-set our heart on the Lord. Refreshed, we can return to our duties and interactions with others, bringing with us a new peace and freedom. If you want a little help getting started, you might enter into your prayer corner with Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” repeating it slowly, letting it soak in with silence, leaning your head against the heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and listening to His heartbeat of love.
I have a couple friends who depend on their prayer space even outside of times of crisis and lockdown (pictured above). The first is a table that looks out upon some beautiful scenery of nature and equipped with the Bible and some holy images. The second is a shed purchased from Costco (!) and turned into a “prayer shed” by a busy mother of five children. While I’ve emphasized prayer in solitude, your own prayer haven could be used for family prayer as well.
I have my own prayer corner in my room (pictured below). A large period of my morning is spent there along with a shorter respite sometimes in the evening. When I enter into this enclosure, being a creature of habit, my mind and heart seem to know intuitively that it’s time for prayer and tend to settle down and find rest more quickly. However elaborate or simple our prayer space may be, the important thing is that we use it. This time of lockdown may provide us the opportunity to better realize the counsel of Jesus: “Go into your inner room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Mt 6:6).