A Prayer for Household Chores

Sure, household chores can be tiresome and exasperating, but just like prayer, doing them takes me right out of myself.

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The beautiful autumn view out of prayer blogger Rick Hamlin's window

Do you pray while you wash the dishes? When ironing, doing the laundry, washing the windows? This weekend I was doing a lot of household chores, and grateful for it, to tell you the truth.

It always pulls me back to reality: “Hey, this dish is filthy. How did we produce so many dirty clothes this week? Where did the grime on the inside or our windows come from?” And you know when I unfold the ironing board and plug in the iron, I’m really desperate to clean up my act.

Sure, household chores can be tiresome and exasperating, but just like prayer, doing them takes me right out of myself. When I finish folding all that laundry, ironing that shirt, washing that window, scrubbing the toilet, vacuuming the rug, filling up the drying rack, my own problems shrink into more manageable size. I feel a part of humanity, all those people throughout the world attacking dust kitties, smudges, grease, wrinkles, brown stains that come out of nowhere, and they and I are all at one in the first-person plural universe that we inhabit in the Lord’s Prayer, looking for our daily bread, asking forgiveness for ourselves and others, leading us not into temptation.

Andy Crouch in his new book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, puts it this way: “The dirty dishes remind me, too, that I am embedded in relationship with other glorious and messy human beings. I don’t just wash my own dishes, cleaning up after myself in a neat tit-for-tat, but my family’s and our guests’. As I lavish soap over the leavings of their nurture and refreshment, I am prompted to see how physical our love and friendship are—not just warm feelings but the tangible sharing of the very goodness of the world, always accompanied by our need for grace for all that we leave behind.”

And then when you finish, you get that real sense of accomplishment. Wow, that shirt is ironed, that sink is empty, those clean sheets on the bed smell divine, and that view out that window, did it ever look this good? The window all clean, I got out my phone and took a snapshot of a beautiful autumn day outside. Refreshed, renewed, a little knackered, I’m ready to put my feet up and meet the challenges of the week ahead. Knowing the process will all be reversed, giving me the chance to clean up my act, inside and out, next weekend and the weeks ahead. Amen, I say, Good Lord, thanks for dirt.

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