The Happy Priest: Lent and Developing a Serious Life of Prayer
Prayer is the Path to Freedom and Human Flourishing
Have no fear of allowing Jesus to enter into your life. Do not fear the most exciting, most joyful and the most powerful relationship known to the human person. We are made by God to live forever. We have been given the gift of an immortal soul. Jesus does not want us to live a life of sadness. He does not want us to wallow in doubt, frustration and uncertainty. He wants us to live.
Remember, Jesus wants us to have life. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to have the best possible life here on earth. He wants to fill us with his divine life, sanctifying grace, so that we may enter into his joy. He wants us to experience his peace. He wants us to be with him in eternal life in heaven. He only wants the best for us. This is why he wants us to open our hearts to him and let him enter in.
Have no fear of allowing Jesus to enter into your life. Do not fear the most exciting, most joyful and the most powerful relationship known to the human person.
We are made by God to live forever. We have been given the gift of an immortal soul. Jesus does not want us to live a life of sadness. He does not want us to wallow in doubt, frustration and uncertainty. He wants us to live. By embracing God's will and by carrying our cross with patience, joy and love, we can find deep happiness even in the midst of profound suffering.
Nevertheless, it is true that prayer is not an easy enterprise. The spiritual life will always be a battle. There always will be obstacles that are necessary to overcome if we wish to live a life of prayer.
My book Get Serious! - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics offers a practical guide as to how your prayer life should look like and how it can develop to different levels of spirituality. My book also contains all of the basic Catholic prayers and an instructional guide on how to get into meditation and contemplative prayer.
First of all, many people struggle with distractions when they pray. I have always encouraged people to be patient when they are distracted. However, it is true that distractions are rather normal, especially for all those who are beginning to develop a prayer life.
Personal discipline, choosing a suitable place, using a good text when necessary and selecting a proper time for prayer are all important aspects when determined to overcome distractions in prayer.
Secondly, aridity is another major obstacle that people struggle to overcome. However, it must be understood that spiritual dryness is a normal road of purification that the Lord uses in order to bring us to greater heights of the spiritual life.
The quality of prayer must not be measured by personal feelings. Feelings come and go. Our personal experience of God through prayer will fill us with peace and provide renewal and strength, but it is important that we leave consolations to the will of God.
Thirdly, many people become impatient with God because they want instant answers. God is not a computer. Our God is a loving Father who knows all of our needs.
Finally, probably the biggest obstacle is that most people are just too busy. Too many people are like Martha, "anxious and worried about many things" (Luke 10: 41). Too many people have fallen into the terrible trap of what I call the idolatry of work, thus making their work a complete obsession to the detriment of their families and personal health. Most Americans live in order to work rather than work in order to live. Man was not made for work; work was made for man.
Prayer is a struggle. The struggle is intertwined with blessings, moments of profound peace and the obvious presence of God. Trust and perseverance: two lessons that we are reminded of as we read over the gospels.
In order that we may experience God in our daily lives we need to pray every day. Mother Theresa once said: "We need to find God and God cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature--trees and flowers and grass--grow in silence. See the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life."
But, in order to pray, we need to obtain the ability to be alone with ourselves. It is difficult to be alone in contemporary society. Even when we are alone, the noise of our own worries and fears drown out the silence of God's voice. Many people are incapable of being alone and they immediately feel an obsession to talk with someone on a cell phone or fool around with email.
We all need moments of solitude. Spending a quiet time before the Eucharist; reading the Scriptures during a peaceful moment at home; taking tranquil walks through the woods or along the beach, are necessary activities for our soul. In order to be with God, we must develop the ability to be alone with ourselves.
Silence will deepen any relationship. Silence allows us to listen and to gaze. Let us take the time to be silent so that we can grow in our relationship with the One who always seeks us and calls us to himself.
Prayer is not always easy. There will be moments when you simply do not feel like praying. You will battle with distractions and moments of dryness. Do not worry. Welcome to the human race. Stick to your prayer schedule. Persevere and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit.
I honestly do not know what it takes for people to really want to pray. Perhaps spiritual thirst is a gift. However, we need to remember the words of Sacred Scripture: "The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you"
Father James Farfaglia is the Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, TX. Check out Father's updated website to learn more about his books, homilies and audio podcasts.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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