Sunday, December 4, 2016

Obstacles of prayer?

Second Sunday of Advent year A 2016:
In today’s gospel we hear the voice of John the Baptist.  He says repent, we hear that we need to prepare the way of the Lord.  This is one of the major themes of Advent right?  Prepare the way for the Lord, prepare for his arrival at Christmas, and when he comes again.  The words of John the Baptist remind us of a basic truth in the Christian life.  We cannot remain passive, we have to become active.  John is calling us to take action.  Jesus is coming, and we cannot just stay on the sidelines, we have to get into the action.
As I mentioned last Sunday, we are spending the season of Advent here at St. Jude thinking about our life of prayer.  Last week we defined prayer as living with God.  All of us can grow in our spiritual lives if we start to see our whole life as being lived in God’s presence.  I mean, God is there already, but by calling to mind his presence, we can start to see everything in the light of our relationship with him.  Living with God can have a profound impact on our daily lives.  Prayer is essential if we are going to take action and put into practice the words of St. John: repent and prepare the way of the Lord.
But, prayer is not always easy.  In some ways prayer is simple, living with God, speaking with him.  But, this doesn’t mean that it is easy.  So, as we hear St. John say “prepare the way of the Lord,” it got me thinking about how we can do this in our own lives.  What are some of the common obstacles of prayer and how can we overcome them.
The first one that I hear quite often is “I don’t have time to pray.”  Isn’t that the truth sometimes?  Our lives seem to be getting busier all the time.  Just for an example, Thursday I woke up and looked at my calendar to see what all I had going on that day and I discovered that I had 11 appointments on my calendar.  I was basically booked from 7:00 mass in the morning until 9:00 at night.  It was a crazy day.  How many of us can say the same?  These kinds of days are becoming the norm more and more.  So, how to pray when our life seems so crazy?
I have 2 suggestions.  First, try to carve out time for prayer.  Remember how I said I had 11 appointments?  Well, one of my appointments that day was my holy hour in the chapel.  I make that hour every week, and it’s an important part of my spiritual life.  And, I certainly call it an appointment.  I feel it is just as important as anything else in my schedule.  I try never to bump that hour from my schedule.  Normally, if someone wants to meet with me I can just meet before or after that hour.  Try to do the same in your own life.  Make an appointment with God and make sure you stick to it.  Try to schedule a weekly holy hour, maybe a rosary, a time to read scripture.  Our lives are crazy, so we have to become more intentional about prayer time.  I know that if I don’t schedule prayer, I find I don’t pray as much.  I think many of us just think: I’ll pray when I get the time… But, we never get the time, so try to book it.
Second suggestion: make your everyday life more prayerful.  So, we cannot always be in the chapel.  We cannot always be praying the rosary.  But, we can always talk to God.  This is a trick I learned during my time in the seminary.  I noticed that there is a lot of time spent traveling and waiting.  Maybe it’s time in the car.  Maybe it’s walking between appointments.  Maybe it’s waiting at the doctor’s or whatever.  Think about your day.  How much time is really just waiting or travelling?  I try to use that time to have quick conversations with God.  I tell him what’s going on in my life.  I ask him for guidance.  I share with him my troubles and burdens.  Simply put, I just try to reach out to God.  I find that in my life, there are lots of these little minutes.  I can squander these times, or I can turn to God.  I can tell you that when I’m in the habit of reaching out to God in all the little moments of my life, my life sure seems to go more smoothly.
Time is just one obstacle to prayer.  Hopefully these two suggestions might help you to prepare the way of the Lord.  Check out the bulletin this week.  In my column I talk about some other common obstacles to prayer.  I hope you will find these things helpful.

Living with God.  In some ways it’s quite simple, but it’s not easy.  Hear the word of John the Baptist today and take action.  Prepare the way of the Lord.  Actively seek to grow in faith by growing in prayer.  If you do, then this Advent will be a great season of growth for your life of faith.

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