THE body constantly needs a source of energy, even for simple tasks such as breathing. So, too, the soul has essential needs. Thus, Jesus commanded us:
Pray always. (Luke 18:1)
The spirit needs the constant life of God, much the way grapes need to hang on the vine, not just once a day or on Sunday mornings for an hour. The grapes should be on the vine “without ceasing” in order to ripen to maturity.
But what does this mean? How does one pray always? Perhaps the answer is to first recognize that we can barely pray once a day consistently, let alone without ceasing. Our hearts are divided and our minds scattered. We often try to worship both God and mammon. Since Jesus said that the Father is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and truth, my prayer must always begin in truth: I am a sinner in need of His mercy.
…humility is the foundation of prayer… Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic Liturgy and personal prayer. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2559, 2631
As I wrote last time (see On Prayer), prayer IS the relationship with God. I want to ask forgiveness because I’ve hurt the relationship. And God is delighted to bless my honesty with not only His forgiveness but even greater graces for climbing the Mountain of Faith toward Him.
ONE STEP AT A TIME
Still, how do I pray at all times?
The life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him. —CCC, n.2565
A habit is something that begins with a first step, and then another, until one is doing it without thinking.
We cannot pray “at all times” if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it. —CCC, n.2697
Just as you carve out time for supper, you need to carve out time for prayer. Again, prayer is the life of the heart—it is spiritual food. The soul can live without prayer no more than the body can live without food.
It is time that we Christians turn off the television set! We often have no time to pray because it has been sacrificed to the “one-eyed god” in the middle of the living room. Or the molten calf we call a “computer.” To be honest, these words come out of me like a warning (see, Come Out of Babylon!). But the invitation to prayer is not a threat; it is an invitation to Love!
I repeat, as you carve out time for supper, you need to carve out time for prayer.
If you do not pray regularly, begin today by taking 20-30 minutes just to be with the Lord. Listen to Him through the Scriptures as you read them. Or meditate upon His life through the prayers of the Rosary. Or pick up a book on the life of a saint or written by a saint (I strongly recommend Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales) and begin to read slowly, pausing whenever you hear the Lord speaking to you in your heart.
There are a thousand ways to The Way. The main thing is that you choose one and begin to pray from the heart, one step at a time, one day at a time. Here’s what will begin to happen…
THE REWARDS OF PERSEVERANCE
As you continue to guide your life between the duty of the moment and the guardrails of God’s commandments, which is proper Fear of the Lord, prayer will draw into your soul the graces you need to carry you higher and higher up the Mountain. You will begin to experience new vistas and landscapes of Understanding, breathing in new and crisp Knowledge of God, and growing from strength to strength, increasing in Fortitude. You will begin to possess Wisdom.
Wisdom is a gift of the Spirit which conforms your mind to Christ’s that you may think like Him and begin to live like Him, thus participating in His supernatural life in deeper and deeper ways. This supernatural life is called Piety.
Such a soul, shining with the light of Jesus, is then able to better light a path to his brothers and sisters following behind him, guiding them through the often treacherous turns and steep cliffs. This is called Counsel.
Prayer is not so much about what you give to God as what God wants to give to you. He is the Giver of Gifts from the treasury of His Heart, broken open for you upon the Cross. And how He longs to pour them upon you!
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. (Matt 7:7-11)