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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Why Pray?

LESSON: Prayer - The Secret to Living Lent

The natural seasons of the year give a rhythm to life. Each season provides nature with something it needs to keep growing.
The same thing happens in the Church, with liturgical seasons. In each liturgical season God sends us graces we need in order to keep growing in wisdom, holiness, and happiness.
But these graces don't benefit our souls automatically, the way sunlight benefits plants. Rather, we have to take them in on purpose.
But how? How can we bathe in the supernatural sunlight that will make us grow, make us better, make us change, during this liturgical season?
Today the Church reminds us of the most effective method we have for drinking in all the graces God wants to give us during this Lent: prayer.
  • Today's  First Reading tells us that "The Lord God took Abram outside..." and had a conversation with him. That's prayer.
  • The Psalm gives us an example of King David's prayer in the face of danger, "Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me..."
  • St Paul, in the Second Reading, reminds the Christians in Philippi that while most people occupy their minds "with earthy things... Our citizenship is in heaven." Our attention is on God - that's prayer.
  • Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus leads his three closest disciples away from the hustle and bustle of life, up to the top of a high mountain, where he can be alone with them, and give them a lesson in prayer.
We have to ask ourselves: is our prayer life in good shape? Has it improved in the last year, the last ten years? If it's out of shape, we won't be able to drink in the graces God wants to give us this Lent, the ones we really need.

ILLUSTRATION: Even Christ Needed to Pray

We often overlook one of the most remarkable pieces of evidence that shows how important prayer really is: Jesus prayed.
  • Last week we saw him go off into the desert to pray.
  • In today's Gospel passage, we see him go up the mountain to pray.
  • In dozens of other Gospel passages we see the same thing.
Let's think about what that implies.
  • Jesus Christ was God become man.
  • His human nature was infused with the power of his divine person.
  • He was perfect, sinless, without any tendencies to selfishness, laziness, or pride.
  • His character was flawless, firm as the mountains and gentle as a mother's caress.
  • His mind was beyond brilliant, filled with the radiance of divine light and understanding.
  • He had no emotional scars from a difficult family upbringing (Mary was without sin too, and Joseph was a saint), no personality disorders, no lacks, no wounds, no imperfections at all.
And yet, over and over again in the Gospels, we see him go off to be alone in prayer: "Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray."
  • Sometimes we even read about how he had to get up early to make time for prayer.
  • Other times he had to stay up late to make time for it, but he always did it.
  • Jesus needed to pray.
If he, who was perfect in every way, needed prayer in order to fulfill his life's mission, what does that imply for us, who are so imperfect, so weak, so vulnerable to every sort of temptation and wounded by every kind of sin?
Christ was a man of prayer, and, as he himself put it, "no disciple is greater than his master" (John 15:20). If he needed to pray; so do we.

APPLICATION: Daily Quiet Time

All of us have to ask ourselves about our prayer lives. We need to be honest. If our prayer life hasn't grown in the last year, we need to do something about it.
God still has so much he wants to do in our lives. Improving our prayer life will give him room to work.
One way to do that is by instituting a daily quiet time.
  • We never let a day go by without taking a shower, because we know our bodies need that cleansing.
  • We never let a day go by without eating, because we know our bodies need that nourishment.
  • Many people almost never let a day go by without exercising, because they know their bodies need that stimulation.
Why not do the same thing for our souls? That's what a daily quiet time is for. It's a one-on-one appointment with the Lord, which gives him room to refresh, nourish, and exercise our soul.
It's very simple to do.
Choose a time and place in which you won't be interrupted. Then do three things:
  • First, Remember. Remind yourself that Christ is with you and wants to be with you. Think of all the blessings he has given you.
  • Second, Read. Take out a spiritual book, a Bible, or your favorite prayer book and read a paragraph or two, slowly. No rush. [Here you can recommend your favorites and have copies available, e.g. St Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life, or Fr Thomas Williams' Spiritual Progress].
  • Third, Reflect. Think about what you read. Listen to what God wants to say to you through it. Apply it to your life.
Remember, Read, Reflect.
Before you know it the fifteen minutes will be up, and you will have received a word of encouragement from God to help you live the life he wants you to.
Prayer is the secret to drinking in all the graces God has in store for us. Today, he is hoping we'll decide to become better pray-ers. Let's not disappoint him.

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