As the Lenten season continues to roll on, I’m continuing to look at the three pillars of the season, namely fasting, prayer, and alms giving. Today, I want to focus on what I see as the most essential of the three, prayer.
When I say prayer is the most essential, I hope it’s clear that I’m not dismissing the other two. What I mean by saying it is the most essential, though, is just that it is what gives a spiritual meaning even to the others. Without prayerful reflection, our fast is simply a diet or a discipline. Our alms giving, if not given with prayer and true Christian charity, is more a form of social work. Now, don’t get me wrong, neither of those things are bad, even without prayer. They are, though, simply human activity, and so they will not purify our soul or draw us closer to our Heavenly Father, which is ultimately what this desert journey is supposed to be about.
During the Lenten season, I think it’s important to adopt a pointed, intentional discipline of prayer into our lives. It’s easy to say, “I’ll pray more,” or, “I’ll pray everyday,” but, in my own experience, those commitments are too vague to really hold ourselves to. The more clear our commitment is, the more likely we are to actually follow through with it. That’s why I recommend picking a specific practice and schedule. Things like praying the rosary first thing each morning, reading a chapter from the Bible each night, or in my case, beginning every day by reading a chapter from a spiritual work and spending a few minutes in prayerful reflection, give us measurable goals and targets we can really aim for.
If we fall short, though, it’s important to remember that this is a Lenten journey. We are on a path to greater holiness by our prayer, not microwave Saints. If you miss your prayer, take it to God in prayer and accomplish the double whammy of seeking forgiveness and righting your mistake. As we continue on this journey, let’s keep each other in prayer.