"May I X while I pray?" vs. "May I pray while Xing?
This morning I was sitting in the corner of the Cathedral atrium, waiting for an Open Door Cafe job assignment, tying knots in #36 twine, and praying. All at the same time, of course.
Then the question wandered through my mind: there's a difference between "doing x while praying" and "praying while doing x", it's obvious, but just what is that difference?
I think the difference in not only in attitude, but in primary allocation of a piece of time.
We are to pray always. That means that, unavoidably, we will be praying while doing all kinds of things --- cooking, dishwashing, driving, showering, laboring at all kinds of things. Things that we really can't not do, and other things that we just like to do. And, praying while doing these things is an actual good, not a problem at all.
However, we do (or should) be setting aside some special times for praying ---- the morning offering time, the nightly examination of conscience, maybe a rosary or the Liturgy of Hours or a holy half-hour at the tabernacle. This is not the time to twiddle with twine or nibble pretzels or smoke or do anything else that does not directly nurture prayer. They are not evil things, but at those times they are inappropriate things.
So, while we should pray while it's time for doing any X, we should be avoiding Xing while it's time for praying, leastwise it seems to me.