Stoplight Prayer


I pulled up to the traffic light. My phone lay on the console next to me and I could see the little G-mail icon blinking. Just a few seconds before, my phone had buzzed with a text notification as well. I never text while I am driving… But as long as I’m stopped at the light, I might as well see what it is… so I checked the message quickly. It was from my sister, letting me know to call her when I arrived at her townhouse. Not urgent. I checked the e-mail. Some Land’s End sale. Not interested.

The light turned green. I put my phone down and headed on my way.

I started to ponder the mysterious pull that little blinky message sign has on me– on almost everyone these days. As if the possibility of instant and constant communication weren’t enough, we are bombarded with visual attention-begging even from our phones.

Someone is trying to talk to you, it beckons.

At a red light, in line at the grocery store, any time I’m bored here at home, that little device is right there– my connection to a world full of grown-ups who, even if they aren’t trying to get in touch with me directly through text and email, let me know what they are thinking and what they are up to through various posts, updates, tweets, and even pictures. They tell me what they are planning on making for their next cocktail parties, how they will decorate the new nursery, what they were doing five years ago, and what funny thing their kid said while they were on the toilet (Ok, so most of those things are direct examples of what I’VE told others recently).

As I drove away from that traffic light, I started thinking that this desire for constant, affirming communication is really just a desire for us to feel like someone is communicating with us. In those times when we are bored or feeling alone, we reach out for a connection. We want to feel like we’re in the loop on important things in our friends’ and families’ lives– so we grab our computers or phones and get a quick communication fix until the next red light.

“Do you have a stoplight prayer?” my spiritual director asked me once.

“A what?”

“A stoplight prayer. It’s very important to have a short, sincere prayer that you get into the habit of reciting every time you come to a stoplight. Of course it doesn’t have to just be a stoplight– any time you are in a line, or walking across campus, or waiting for the elevator. It’s just a quick way of checking in with God. Let Him know you want to stay in touch.”

“What would be a good one?”

“I like using, Come Holy Spirit. Simple. Effective.”

This conversation happened years ago. But today I realized how right and good and wise he was to suggest it. And how wrong and forgetful I have been to neglect it. These thoughts all bundled together and swept over me in a single flood as I put my foot on the gas pedal this morning.

Oh my gosh. What if I prayed like I text or check Facebook? I would end up praying… like… fifty times a day. 

And while each time I check e-mail or texts or Facebook and come up a little empty-handed (junk mail, unimportant message, nothing really for me), God really IS communicating with you every moment of every day. If we had a little icon that lit up telling us we had a message from God, we’d be reminded to check in and get our constant stream of messages:

I love you.

You are my cherished child.

Hey, remember when I died for you? I’d do it again in a heart beat.

Would you like to join me in Adoration? I’m waiting whenever you’re ready.

I’ve got some serious plans for you. Maybe we should chat about that soon.

I arrived at my sister’s house just three minutes later. We talked and sipped coffee. The kids played. It was a normal, happy visit. But this time when she went upstairs to put my nephew down for his nap, instead of grabbing for my phone to check in with emails, texts, Facebook, or whatever else I usually get sucked in to, I checked in with God.

Come, Holy Spirit. I’m here…what’s up? 



      • We set aside time in the morning and evening to spend time with God without distractions such as our phones. We also agree to not use our phones when we are having conversations with each other or when eating together. We are youth leaders at our church and volunteers for other things there so we have to check our phones multiple times each day. But I try to keep an ongoing conversation with God so that when I do use my phone I am not doing so mindlessly and wasting my time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I so needed this both this article and this comment. My automatic reaction at a stoplight (and when I wake up and when I’m in line and and and) is to pull out my phone, but filling those moments with a go-to prayer would be so good for me. Plus, my husband and I are both terrrrrible about not putting any limits on having our phones out when we’re together. I think these concrete limitations are excellent!

        Liked by 1 person

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