A couple weeks ago, we discussed the importance of having a set daily "prayer plan" and sticking to it. The week before that, we looked at 5 Great Prayers to Say After Receiving Our Lord at Mass which was a follow up to a post on 5 Great Prayers to Say Before Mass. With all this recent focus on prayer, I thought it might be a good idea to take a step back and ask, "why should we pray at all?" Prayer can seem like such a basic thing that "religious people" do that we normally don't take the time to sit back and take in the full significance of what we are doing when we pray or even why we bother spending time in prayer at all, which can cause us to lose sight of the end we are hoping to achieve in and through prayer, which, in turn, can lead to a distorted prayer life. Worse yet, we can grow cold in our prayer life and, surrounded by a sea of materialism as we are, fall into seeing prayer as a waste of time, as something ineffectual.
To inoculate us against such a ghastly prospect, let's turn to the ever wise St. Josemaria Escriva and see what he has to teach us about something as fundamental to the spiritual life as prayer.
One of the things he reminds us of is the raw power of prayer, that it is one of the most powerful things we can possibly do, and therefore one of the most practical things we can do. St. Josemaria goes as far as saying that "prayer is the foundation of the spiritual edifice. Prayer is all-powerful." (The Way, 83). If this is true, if prayer is the foundation of our spiritual life then having a weak or non-existent prayer life is like trying to build a skyscraper on a shallow and weak foundation! We know such a construction project would be doomed to the most catastrophic failure, as will be our spiritual life (the growth in which is the purpose of our Earthly lives) if we don't start with a strong foundation of prayer. St. Josemaria bluntly tells us, "sanctity without prayer? I don't believe in such sanctity." (The Way, 107).
St. Josemaria's confidence in the power of prayer to change us, our lives, and the world we live in is merely an echo of the Master's, "whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive it, if you have faith." (Matt 21:22)
But how often do we treat prayer this way? How often do we, before beginning any undertaking, start by checking and reinforcing our spiritual foundation? How often are we confident that our prayers are being heard and that they can move mountains (cf. Mark 11:23)? Being a man of prayer is sine qua non for a Christian. "If you are not a man of prayer, I don't believe in the sincerity of your intentions when you say that you work for Christ." (The Way, 109).
Find the time today and start growing in prayer. Start small, but start building a life of prayer. Follow the advice of The Apostle who, mincing no words, tells us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17). Remember, St Paul wasn't merely speaking to priests and monks with those words! "Prayer... is a Christian undertaking of men and women of the world..." (Furrow, 451). Which is why we must pray daily and stick to our prayer plan even when we get busy. Indeed the busier we get the more time we need to make for prayer. "Prayer, more prayer! It may seem odd to say that now when you are... working harder... But you need prayer..." (Furrow, 449) because "action is worthless without prayer" (The Way, 81). Read that again. Action isn't "worth less" without prayer, it is "worthless", worth nothing. But with prayer our actions can sanctify the world and save our souls!