Prayer time

At some juncture in the past, I got the notion that praying with scripture for a long while every day would be a good practice for everyone.  Not only for those who have retired and have no urgent duties, but even for those who are still up to their email files in urgent duties.

Then a few weeks ago I came across  a response that Pope Francis gave to a reporter about his schedule. He used to pray a long while every morning. He doesn't now. He rises and prays before the Blessed Sacrament for some quarter-hour and then after something to eat, he begins seeing people or speaking to them - we're looking at six in the morning.  (You got to have virtue to be a friend of the pope's - or a co-worker.)  

The pope used to pray for an hour in the evening before the Blessed Sacrament. He still does that. One reason he can do it consistently is his refusal to go out in the evening. Remember the empty white throne-like chair at the "papal recital" by some visiting chorus. He told them he would not come. They did not believe him. The empty white chair symbolizes the pope's determination to pray daily.

Anyhow, where this has led me is to correct the mistaken notion that everyone needs to pray every day for a long while. I have found myself telling people that we all must find time daily to pray. I now say "seven and a half minutes." That, of course, is a symbolic number - but it does not symbolize a long - loooong - time praying. It means praying enough for what I need right now.

How tell that? The response is direct and easy: you know more about your prayer by what you do outside of it than by what happens inside it.

If you are working on the virtue of patience, you pray as long as you need to to keep getting more and more patient. If you find yourself getting impatient about the same things all the time, you need to spend a good length of time figuring out what that's about - pride? not trusting God? resentment at somebody or something? Go with the Lord Jesus into Gethsemani and you'll find out a lot.

I'm about to leave to give a weekend retreat, so it's obvious that I have another conviction about how much prayer we need. We need a longish time every year to reflect on where we have come, where we are right now, and where we seem to be aimed at going. A retreat is the best way we've found to do that. Parish retreats are excellent and if you can't get to a weekend somewhere, get to a parish.

And if none of those work, try staying home in the evenings during the whole of Advent.  Amazing how much time you find to pray then.