Evaluating Our Prayer For those


Evaluating Our Prayer

For those not beguiled by the sweet strains of Medieval English (gad! could there be any such?) we bring you Renaissance English. Well not really, as The Sadness of Christ was actually written in Latin, and what we can read today is a translation of that original Latin. One of the causes of the Sadness of Christ, St. Thomas More contends, is that He is surrounded with two sorts of people--those who go to sleep on Him and those who betray Him. He didn't have a word for it in his time, but Thomas More might have talked about the former as "Groupies." These guys really liked to hang out with Jesus, but when the heat came, they were gone. He likens most of our prayers to these sleeping apostles.

from The Sadness of Christ St. Thomas More

I wish that sometime we would make a special effort, right after finishing our prayers, to run over in our minds the whole sequence of time we spent praying. What follies will we see there? How much absurdity and sometimes even foulness will we catch sight of? Indeed, we will be amazed that it was at all possible for our minds to dissipate themselves in such a short time among so many places at such great distance from each other, among so many different affairs, such various, such manifold, such idle pursuits. For if someone, just as an experiment, should make a determined effort to make his mind touch upon as many and as diverse objects as possible, I hardly think that in such a short time he could run through such disparate and numerous topics as the mind, left to its own devices, ranges through while the mouth negligently mumbles through the hours of the office and other much-used prayers. (p. 18-19)

It is amazing. When we're doing almost anything else, it would take an explosion to pull us away. But here we spend a moment, a fraction of a hour with the Creator of the Universe and we are bored out of our skulls, thinking about everything but praying--that itch, the tire on the car that may or may not need air, that strange sound--what is it like, kind of like an airplane passing overhead but echoey. You know all about it. Distraction prevails in prayer. Part of the reason is that we don't really take prayer very seriously, no matter what our lips say about it.

We figure, we get in our fifteen minutes plus Mass, and we're set, right? Maybe we can sneak in a Rosary after dinner, or at least some after dinner thanks, or maybe a "Thank you, Lord" at night. We are all stuck in the anti-Samuel syndrome. A Priest friend of mine once said that our prayers are always, "Listen Lord, your servant is speaking." And how often is that true. And even when we're doing all the talking, we're distracted by the next thing on the agenda--how quickly can we tick these things on the list off.

Is that how we treat our friends? Do we meet them in the street and tell them everything that has happened to us since our previous meetings in the street and then rush off to the next friend to do the same? No, we invite friends in to share our houses, our foods, our comforts, our families. We make them welcome and we carve out time--yes, time in our extremely busy schedules into which we cannot fit another thing, we make time. Shouldn't we be doing the same for God? Carving out a cherished place in time that could be spent in any of the incredibly important things we do in a day--like talking around the water-cooler, or watching 4-6 hours of substandard television.

Our prayers are impoverished because our attitudes are poor. You cannot have great prayers if you don't value prayer. You cannot spend time with God if it isn't a priority. And prayer, like conversation, is a skill that takes time to learn. Most of us are toddlers or very young children in prayer. We talk only about ourselves and say the same things over and over again. I suspect Our Father in Heaven rejoices when we introduce a single new word into our prayer vocabularies. Prayer takes time to cultivate, and it takes a willing heart. Both of these come from an initial attitude--Prayer is important.

Take some time, evaluate what you really think about prayer--is it as important as beer?, as football? , as the current scandal?, as what J-Lo is wearing to the Academy Awards?, as gossiping with the neighbor? Is it really? Because if it is, then we wouldn't be spending our time doing those things, rather we would be spending the time gently, slowly cultivating prayer. And like anything carefully nurtured and tended, we would find explosive growth--most particularly because this cherished gift is fed from without by the King of Creation Himself.

But, if you find yourself driven to distraction, recognize that it is part of the skill of praying to learn to accept those things as they come and offer them to the Lord, wordlessly. Simply, as St. Therese would say, "With a glance toward heaven." Prayer is an aspiration and an aspiration must be desired above all things, otherwise it is no aspiration at all, merely a thought, a throwaway, a worse than worthless thing.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 23, 2002 1:40 PM.

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