The Narrow, Rocky Path: Part Two

For the first 52 years of my Christian life, I had heard many times about “the power of prayer” and nodded agreeably, but outside of the Mass it wasn’t something I did.  Oh of course there were impromptu prayers of gratitude like “Thank you Jesus!” when I did something stupid behind the wheel and narrowly missed an accident, or grace before meals at home, but there was no formal devotion to prayer in my daily life.  I thought of prayer in a rudimentary intellectual way that since God’s will was going to be done, praying “Lord, please help the Browns get to the Super Bowl” was going to have no effect on Divine Will.  And it hasn’t: in this area God lets the Supreme Lord of Darkness  Bill Belichick have his way.

After The Fall – i.e. being cast jobless upon the subprime mortgage fueled economy – I joined a men’s prayer group, and one morning our guest was an elderly retired priest named Fr. Charlie Brown.  Fr. Brown stressed that the root of being a disciple was the word “discipline”.  Those that believe prayer should always be a spontaneous exercise usually do very little praying he purported.  I also had an “Aha!” moment when he described prayer’s primary purpose as building a relationship with Jesus Christ, to invite him in and let the Father’s will work through you.  There’s nothing wrong with petitionary prayer, as Jesus himself used it and was the perfect model for it: after asking that the Cup of his Passion be taken away, he qualified “…but not as I will, but Thy will done.”

I began my disciplined pray journey almost 3 years age, and it continues to expand today.  It began with formal prayer upon arising, before going to bed, and grace before meals, even in public.  I find prayer in the morning easier to adhere to, as I am a morning person.  These aging bones find hitting the sack better than a deep-fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, so getting on my knees for 5 minutes before bed is often a tougher row to hoe.   So if you ask me “What’s a great baby step?” I would say the Lord’s Prayer upon arising is a “must do” minimum.  I and several fellow middle-aged job aspirants were meeting for coffee a couple of years ago – all Catholics – and our discussion digressed into spiritual matters.  After I said that keeping our eyes on the prize was doing what we needed to do to get to Heaven, across the table from me eyes narrowed and “Bob” (not his real name) replied “if God doesn’t see fit to keep a roof over our heads and food on our table, I’d just as soon go to Hell!”  I found that to be a real conversation-killer, and I always think of great comebacks later, no Disraeli I.  Driving home the thing I wish I’d said came to mind: “Bob, in your 50+ years of life, has God ever failed to keep a roof over your family’s head or food on the table?”   I would have expected a thoughtful, mildly chagrined “No”; if he had “Yes, many times”, well my place in the Comebacks Hall of Fame was less than assured.  But Bob was an obviously well-educated, well-fed, and well-groomed person, so I’m pretty confident the answer would have been “No”, and that Bob was holding God accountable for a future that hadn’t happened yet – because if it had happened, it wouldn’t be the future (St. Thomas Aquinas and I fist bump).  So as Christ exhorted on the Sermon on the Mount  to live for today, because tomorrow is evil enough in itself, we need to ask the Father as Jesus taught his disciples to pray to “Give us this day, our daily bread.”  He didn’t teach we need to ask for bread six months or a year from now.  In my opinion that’s a powerful way to begin the day, lining one up spiritually to channel God’s will to work through us.

Prayer in the evening should at a minimum be a reflection on how one comported one’s self throughout the day, an “examination of conscience”, and a request for forgiveness for any sins that were committed.  It’s tough to be a saint even for a day; e.g. the Catholic Church details 12 specific ways one can sin using the tongue alone.  If you wake up dead you’ll be thankful you went to your individual judgment with a repentant heart.

Finally, prayer in public is powerful Christian witness.  I remember as a child that in our rare meals at a restaurant, we didn’t say grace because it might make other diners uncomfortable.  Jesus’ saying those that deny him he will deny before the Father.  So this is a definitely a prayer baby-step, but not guaranteed to be one that insulates your from criticism in culture that gets more upset by Tim Tebow falling on one knee and pointing to the sky than the many abortions that occur every day in this country.  But thankfully it’s unlikely you’ll be hauled off in chains like St. Paul to Roman prison for saying grace in a Denny’s…yet.

In our next episode I’ll talk about the reading of Scripture…same Bat time, same Bat channel.

Explore posts in the same categories: Faith

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: