I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer lately. As usual, I think about it when I’m supposed to be doing something else (like racing to meet a deadline), which probably is what makes it all the more enticing. Ah, yes. We humans are a fascinating species, aren’t we?
Of course, it’s not only about procrastination, it’s also about refining what should be the central part of my spirituality.
St. Paul tells us, “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance making supplications for all the saints.” For “we have not been commanded to work, to keep watch and to fast constantly, but it has been laid down that we are to pray without ceasing.” (Thes 5:17, Eph 6:18)
Tireless Fervor and Persevering Love
Not only are we called to pray incessantly, but on top of that, the Church teaches, we must have tireless fervor that stems from persevering love. (CCC 2742) Is it just me, or is that a tall order?
Of course it is, as all things Christian tend to be, and that’s what’s got me curious about whether I’m praying as fruitfully as I can or should. Sure, I pull out the beads a couple of times a day and here and there mumble some frustrated supplications to our Lord. Once in a while, I’ll remember to offer him praise without even asking for anything. But, is my prayer as focused as it should be? Does it even come close to the tireless fervor and persevering love that the Church prescribes? Sometimes. And sometimes not.
Three Life-Giving Facts About Prayer
On one of my deadline-avoidance forays, I looked up prayer in the Catechism. There’s a ton of excellent information there, too much for even me to procrastinate over. However, one section caught my eye and drew me in. It was the section on “three life-giving facts about prayer.” (CCC 2743-2745) In a nutshell, isn’t that what we all want our prayer to be? Life-giving?
Here’s what I found:
1. It is always possible to pray. St. John Chrysostom once said, “It is possible to offer fervent prayer even while walking in public or strolling alone, or seated in your shop…while buying or selling…or even while cooking.”
2. Prayer is a vital necessity. St. John Chrysostom also said, “Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy… For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin.”
3: Prayer and Christian life are inseparable. The goal of both is to conform to the Father’s will for us and to become more and more like his Son. Origen wrote, “He ‘prays without ceasing’ who unites prayer to works and good works to prayer. Only in this way can we consider as realizable that principle of praying without ceasing.”
Actually, these three points, or facts, are pretty common sense. What was interesting to me is that I found them in the Catechism as part of Church teaching on prayer. Until now, I saw praying while doing other things as somehow second best to “real” prayer. St. John Chrysostom’s advice to pray while walking, at work, conducting commerce or…yes…even while cooking was something I believed should be done only when I didn’t have time to pray separately. The second two facts add emphasis to the first.
So, now I no longer need to feel guilty about multi-task praying and that suits me just fine. It helps to know that something I was already trying to do as a next-best option is in fact something the Church advocates as something I ought to do.
There’s more to it than that. We all know the adage, “Practice makes perfect.” That also applies to prayer, which adds to the advantages of praying while going about our business. The more we pray, the more perfect our prayer will become, and the greater chance we have of achieving the tireless fervor and persevering love we all seek.
Son Rise at 6:35am CST
I’ll be chatting about this topic with EWTN Radio host Brian Patrick on the Son Rise Morning Show Monday, October 1 at 6>35am CST. I hope you’ll join us!