Preparation, patience and perseverance: These are three virtues that will help us nurture God’s Kingdom in our life of prayer. In part 2 of this article, I would like to offer you some practical tips on applying these virtues to your prayer life:
A – Preparation
Take time to prepare yourself Sunday morning before coming to church. Turn off your smart phone half-an-hour before coming to church. Don’t turn it on again until a half an hour later. I keep hearing about these workplace studies that show responding that texts, emails and phone calls distract us for up to half hour after we receive them. So turn it off and start thinking about God.
Similarly, how many of you listen to the news or secular radio on the way to church? Turn off the radio, or turn on the praise and worship. Give this time to God.
B – Patience
Under patience, make sure your prayer is realistic. I always enjoy visiting the monastery where I spend eight or nine hours a day praying with the monks. But this is a special calling from God. Most of us—even those of us called to full-time lay ministry and apostolate—have responsibilities toward our family, our job, our pastoral charges. A monastic schedule is not realistic.
For new Christians—including longtime Christians new to a regimen of daily prayer, I usually suggest half-an-hour a day. Fifteen minutes of contemplating the Gospel in the morning, and 15 minutes of praying the psalms or the rosary in the evening. For young families, take half an hour after supper each evening to read Holy Scripture and pray family devotions. Prayer times that are realistic will foster the patience to keep praying.
C – Perseverance
This brings me to perseverance. What are some tips for persevering in a life of prayer? The first is set aside specific times throughout the day for prayer. That 15 minutes of prayer in the morning I just mentioned? Schedule it. Same with family prayer—after supper is the best time for many families. Like going to the gym or studying for final exams, if you schedule prayer time you are more likely to persevere in keeping it.
The second tip is to pray for your enemies before praying for friends, family and oneself. Ask God to bless your enemies and those who persecute you. Once you have prayed for them, St. John Chrysostom says, it is easier to pray for others. If you pray for your enemies, you will be less tempted to fall away when persecution strikes.
Preparation, patience and perseverance: These are three virtues that will help us nurture God’s Kingdom in our life. For it is only through prayer and intimate communication with God that the Kingdom of God bears fruit in our life. As Jesus concludes in explaining the meaning of the parable of the sower (v. 23): “As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”