The Point of Prayer
Recently, I have been reflecting on a quite serious question about the Christian Life: Why must we pray so much? In my time of life, everything is constantly in transition and growth. I am learning how to cook, how to set up a daily routine, how to be professional, how to be a minister in the Catholic Church, how to live in community, etc. Between all the driving, cooking, sleeping, and planning, what’s the use of praying? Doesn’t St. Paul tell us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)? Can I not just surrender my whole life to God without any forms of structured prayer and be praying the entire time? (For me, when I speak of prayer, I define it as an intentional period of time in which we engage in some prayerful task or practice e.g. reading the Bible for 15 minutes every day.)
This is a very serious question since prayer is a central aspect of the Christian life. If there is no answer to this question, then there seems to be no sufficient reason to pray at all. And at times it seems that there really is no logical reason to pray in our world. Why focus solely on prayer when you could do the dishes, spend time with your family, serve the poor, or enjoy God’s beautiful nature? In a society that is hyperfocused on productivity and efficiency, prayer seems to be completely antithetical to these result-based values, and I am not free of this influence. Oftentimes, prayer is the first thing to go when my schedule becomes busy since it is the most expendable event of my day, whether I am conscious or unconscious of society’s influence on this decision making process. There is nothing productive to come out of prayer. There are no results from prayer, and if there aren’t, then we must be doing something wrong. Not only that, but what do the prayers of such a small soul matter to a God so grand and glorious? What can my prayers do for Him?
I know, or at least I hope, that these questions lie in the hearts of other Christians around me, and if we are to hope to find answers to these questions, we must make time to pray. I could tell you of the consolations, the graces, the joys, and the peace of prayer, but one could not become familiar with these things unless he or she sits down and tries. This is true for all of us, including myself. There is something deeper in the life of prayer that each individual must find within the Mystical Body of Christ - a journey that ultimately leads to relationship and unification with God. It is certainly never done without the help of others, but it must be completed by the individual.
So then, I have decided to offer the following Gospel passage from Mark for your own reflection to try and communicate what I am trying to say. Just as a seed does not see the light for days, weeks, months, or even years, so too can we feel trapped within darkness while praying. It can feel useless, we can’t see the end of prayer, and we wonder whether there really is a God sometimes. But, God is faithful, and if we choose to remain faithful to Him in these times of darkness, surely we shall see the Light of His Face. And He shall certainly give us the grace and consolations needed to remain faithful until our prayer shall truly become unceasing in Heaven. May we be given the grace to remain faithful to the God of Faithfulness, who has never abandoned humanity even when we try to abandon Him. Amen.
He said, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
This 6th day of December - Year of St. Joseph 2021
Feast of St. Nicholas
How shall we prepare our hearts to receive Christ and His Mother throughout the day?