Is possible to pray while loading the dishwasher? This may seem like an odd question, but there is historical precedence for asking it in the midst our 21st century business when we often do not seem to have time for spiritual matters and expressions of devotion to God.
Brother Lawrence was born Nicholas Herman around 1610. Near the middle of his life he entered a new monastery in Paris, France. His daily work was in the monastery kitchen providing meals for a community of monks that at one time numbered one hundred or so men. While Brother Lawrence was obedient to the daily routine of the monastery and went to the chapel at all the appointed times in order to pray and worship, he also found a way to pray in the kitchen. He practiced the presence of God in the ordinary routine tasks associated with the kitchen. Whether slicing bread, peeling potatoes or washing dishes he did whatever he was doing for the love of God. He did what he was doing as God was right next to him doing whatever it was with him. He practiced the presence of God. Lawrence was already in God’s presence, had already been praying, had already been worshipping when it came time to pray or worship according to the monastery schedule. His practice was to establish himself in a sense of God’s presence by continually conversing with God. In a monastery kitchen, the conversations would have had rather mundane topics, but Brother Lawrence did not let that keep him from continually talking to God about the bread, the meat or the vegetables. The topic was not the essential element; the conversation partner was the crucial ingredient. Brother Lawrence’s example seems to suggest that prayer while loading the dishwasher is not only possible, but also spiritually profitable.
So then what sort of prayer do you offer or conversation do you have with God as you load a dishwasher? The obvious place to start seems to be with the cause of the dirty dishes. If there are dirty dishes, then food has been prepared and eaten. A family has been fed. With that thought in mind, does it feel weird imagining yourself saying to God, “Thank you for these dirty dishes?” Perhaps it would be more to the point to express gratitude for those who were fed and that they were fed. However, to just give thanks for dirty dishes would be a short prayer easily completed before much of the dishwasher was loaded. Each item in the sink has the potential to be a conversation starter with God.
For example, the coffee cups in our sink will have most likely have been used by wife, Patti as she is the only person in our home who regularly drinks coffee. Placing a coffee cup in the dishwasher could be an occasion to speak to God about her health and well being or perhaps just think of her and remember her in God’s presence.
In our cupboard, we have a child’s plate, bowl and cup that we keep for when our niece comes to visit. Placing those items in the dishwasher could be an occasion for remembering the gift that her life is along with all the potential that it holds. She is an especially appropriate reason to be in conversation with as her words and actions are so often a playful reminder of the wonderful creativity of God.
There is a simple chopper in our knife draw that is exactly like the one that my grandmother used in her kitchen. Many times when I pick it up I think of her. You may have items in your kitchen that remind you of a special friend or family member. Take a moment to be in God’s presence with your memories of that person and give thanks for the gift of family and friends.
Other items may well bring other people and situations to mind. The secret that Brother Lawrence discovered was that no task was too small or too mundane to do with God. In fact any task, even loading the dishwasher, is an occasion to practice the presence of God.