Thursday, January 29, 2015

Prayer - the Fruit of Loving Jesus

'"Just one minute of intense prayer is enough.' Someone who never prayed used to say that."
So begins number 465 of St. Josemaría Escrivá's Furrow (a collection of 1,000 "points" or tips or advice on growing in holiness in the midst of the world). The great saint continues with an intimidating question, "Would someone in love think it enough to contemplate intensely the person the love for just one minute?"

Many of us have been (or are currently) in love and we all know the answer that question - of course not. But, aren't we called to love Jesus? Again, we all know the answer is "yes." Why then don't we desire to spend more time thinking about, talking with, and adoring Him?

Such a seemingly simple question cuts us to the bone, for the only answer is that we don't love Him enough to want to be bothered. No, we'd rather just check off "prayer" on our to do list and move on with other things - things that we really love. And isn't that just another way of saying other things we really worship? For we all worship something - yes even atheists are included here. We all put something at the center of our lives, be it riches, fame, power, pleasure, sex, we all have our god who we build our lives around. In that way we aren't really all that different from the ancient Israelites who, a mere forty days after Moses ascended Mount Sinai, opted to build a god for themselves, one made of the things they loved more than God - wealth (gold) and sex (calves were symbols of youth and virility).

We might not be silly enough to worship a statue, but we still value, we still love, money, sex, and other wordily things more than we love God. I've heard Dr. Peter Kreeft, renowned Catholic philosopher, author, and apologist, ask audiences why sports stadiums teem with more energy and passion than churches do on Sunday morning (and this upcoming Sunday morning more than any other here in America). Isn't because we love sports more than God? Would we never consider missing the game, but frequently miss our Rosary (and I include myself here, I love the Rosary, but love the Pittsburgh Pirates all the more)? What's wrong with us? Again, we all know the answer. Sin. Concupiscence. Weakness. Our spirits are willing, but - time and again - we find our flesh to be weak (cf. Matt 26:41). And so we miss prayer time. Maybe we figure, it isn't a mortal sin, I didn't miss Mass after all. And right we would be. But, to go back to St. Josemaría's analogy, would we miss a date with our beloved on Earth and rationalize it because it wasn't her birthday or our anniversary after all? Only if we weren't all that in love I suppose. Lovers are never satisfied with "quality time." Their hearts are too smart for that. They want, no they demand, both "quality time" and "quantity time." And so does our Lord.

Which is exactly why prayer - daily prayer - is so essential to the spiritual life. St. Josemaría goes as far as saying, "prayer is the foundation of the spiritual edifice. Prayer is all-powerful" (The Way, 83). If our foundation is weak, we will never be able to build a strong life, a life dedicated to holiness. Thus prayer, which amounts to no more than speaking with Jesus - being with Jesus, must undergird all the action of our lives.

It is this very point that Pope Francis made so eloquently in a recent homily where he implored the faithful to seek to do God's Will in all things. How do we know God's Will? The Pope's answer? Prayer. How do we gain the desire to do God's Will? Again, prayer. How do we carry through on this resolution? Prayer.

I frequently tell my students that each day must start in prayer. Jesus should have the first appointment in our calendars booked every day.
Here is an effective custom for achieving (the) presence of God: your first audience every day should be with Jesus Christ. (Furrow, 450).
It should then proceed with prayer, and end in prayer (usually including an act of contrition for the things we did that we shouldn't have and for the things we didn't do that we should have). Without this basis, St. Josemaría assures us, we can never be saints, "sanctity without prayer? I don't believe in such sanctity" (The Way, 107), and all we do will come to nought, "action is worthless without prayer; prayer is worth more than sacrifice" (The Way, 81).

So enjoy life, but enjoy Jesus and His presence more. For "the world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:17).

Keeping praying my friends!

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