Why are we so shocked when our lives get filled with stress? Why are so many Christians still so often without joy? Why are anxiety and worry more prevalent than peace in many modern believers? I’ll throw out one possible answer: We don’t pray enough.
Prayer is the hinge pin that holds everything else together and keeps us moving forward. Without prayer, everything falls apart. Without prayer, we’re not living, we’re breathing. Prayer is the most primal, most basic, and most important thing we can do as Christians. Prayer is also the very first thing we should do when we get busy.
When we don’t take time to pray, we may as well be saying that it’s not as high a priority as other the things in our lives that we do take time for. We often need to admit that we don’t make enough time to pray.
I don’t make enough time to pray, but I do make excuses. Maybe other things are pulling at me (sometimes children, literally). Maybe my prayer is interrupted, cut short, or unfocused because of reality—the demands of the world around me.
Jesus had people pulling at him. Jesus had people wanting things from him 24/7. Jesus had plenty to do. He made the time. Throughout the Scriptures we see instances when Jesus removed himself from the busyness and took time to pray. We need to be more like Jesus.
If you drew a pie chart of your week that broke down where all of your time goes, what would it look like? When I broke down my 168-hour week, it hit me pretty hard that not enough of my time is dedicated to prayer on a daily or weekly basis. How about yours? There’s probably a lot of time in there for work or school. There’s definitely time in there for travel, meals, and sleep (but probably not as much as you’d like). I’ll even bet that there’s time for exercise or hanging out, reading, or spending time with family and friends (again, probably not as much as you’d like). None of those things is bad; each of them is good. We need relationships, activities, and rest. But God is moving right now. If we don’t perceive it, we need to slow down.
Perhaps, like me, you’ve experienced the Spirit moving in your heart from time to time, prodding you to do some things differently. If so, that’s great, but let’s remember: intentions accomplish nothing if we lack resolve.
Part of resolve is the commitment to improve and the willingness to be practical. How about making a personal inventory to shed light on some areas or offer some ideas on how you might do that?
When was the last time you got up thirty minutes early to have a cup of coffee with God in the morning?
When was the last time you got ready for bed early, fell on your knees beside it, and really prayed before falling asleep?
When was the last time you were able to be totally focused while praying a Rosary?
When was the last time you fasted?
When was the last time you read the upcoming Sunday readings a few days in advance?
When was the last time you turned off the radio, shut off your cell phone, and invited Jesus to ride shotgun with you in your car?
When was the last time you invited your significant other to pray with you?
When was the last time grace before your meal took more than fifteen seconds?
When was the last time you just opened up the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read a few pages?
When was the last time you went to confession? What’s keeping you from going regularly?
When was the last time you did a spontaneous act of service for another person?
These are the questions I have begun to ask myself each week. Some weeks I’m doing great, and other weeks I fail miserably. The effort is a form of prayer, though, and demonstrates resolve. The reality is that I can always improve—and you can too. Prayer isn’t about words or feelings. Prayer is about time. Prayer is about presence. Prayer is about resolve.
“Resolve” is the last “R” in Mark Hart’s The “R” Father: 14 Ways to Respond to the Lord’s Prayer, from which this excerpt is taken. Mark is executive vice president of Life Teen International. For more about this book or his Scripture study, Embracing God’s Plan for Marriage, please visit The Word Among Us Bookstore.