Cardinal Robert Sarah in his book, The Day Is Now Far Spent, as well as his book, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, seeks to draw Christians back to the one thing necessary. To remind us of the primacy of prayer in our daily lives and how we can accomplish nothing unless we are a people of prayer. In the busyness of our lives and the false belief that we can only measure God’s workings through our successes, we can forget that all of our endeavors will become futile if they are not the fruit of serious and dedicated prayer.
From parish life to family life, much of what we do is predicated upon activity. This activity is far too often not born of prayer, so we find ourselves repeatedly failing at our tasks or witnessing mediocre results. Most parishes are task oriented anymore. How many formation offerings and classes should we offer? How many parish dinners? What should we do? Seldom do we seek God’s wisdom and guidance through the operating of the Holy Spirit in prayer. It is only through prayer that the Holy Spirit can renew our parishes.
Our families look very similar. We need to shuttle one child to one event and another child to another and so on. With the endless screens and distractions, we have very little time for deep prayer within our families. This is why we are tired and burned out because we have not grounded ourselves in the love of God through intimate communion with Him and an honest desire to know His will and to execute His will in our daily lives.
A lot of this is tied to the busyness of our lives, but much of it betrays a lack of faith on our part. We live in an age that is cynical about the power of prayer. We are often mocked for offering our prayers to others in the face of suffering. Prayer is seen as pointless or ineffective. We don’t tend to see the results we want because we measure our endeavors in human terms rather than God’s terms. We lack faith and trust in God. We mistakenly believe that we are ultimately in control and that it is our plans that matter. This is why we see repeated failures in our efforts.
Cardinal Sarah issues a startling, but needed reminder to all of us about the risks when we are not people of prayer. First, he discusses what our activity will look like without prayer:
Without union with God, every attempt to strengthen the Church and the faith will be in vain. Without prayer, we will be clanging cymbals. We will sink to the level of media hypesters who make a lot of noise and produce nothing but wind. Prayer must be our inner most respiration. It brings us face to face with God. Do we have some other purpose? Do we Christians, priests, bishops have some reason for existing other than to stand before God and to lead others to him?Cardinal Robert Sarah, The Day Is Now Far Spent, page 16.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, The Day Is Now Far Spent, page 16.
Our very existence is a gratuitous gift from God. We are meant to love and serve Him in this life, so we can be with Him forever in eternity. We enter into deeper union with Him through prayer. Our activity often distracts us from God or leads to lifeless works detached from His will. It is in prayer that we come to understand where God is leading us. It is in prayer that we are strengthened to undergo the tests required of us in this life. Cardinal Sarah goes on:
It is time to teach this! It is time to put it into practice! The one who prays is saved, the one who does not pray is damned, St. Alphonsus said. I want to insist on this point, because a church that does not have prayer as its most precious treasure is headed for ruin. If we do not rediscover the meaning of long, patient vigils with the Lord, we will betray him. The apostles did this: Do we think we are better than they were?
The times in our lives when we fail to faithfully serve Christ and to love others around us are when we are not seeking to live in the Spirit. When we no longer pray with openness to God’s will in our lives, in our families, and in our parishes, our efforts do not bear authentic fruit. It is prayer that gives life and nourishment in our daily lives. It is how we live out the graces of the Sacraments by growing in deeper love of God and a greater desire to serve Him with our whole hearts through intimacy with Him. When we close ourselves off to His will and to seeking His face in prayer, we will abandon Him when things become difficult. We will betray Him through our sins and through our poor treatment of others. This startling reminder should rouse us from our slumber. We are not any better than the Apostles.
Our daily lives are filled with challenges, temptations, and battles. It is prayer that sustains us through these difficulties and it is through prayer that we are given good things from the Lord because we open our hearts to Him and ask for all of our needs. But God is not a dispensary who we only go to when we want something. We must silence our hearts, our wants, our agendas, and truly seek Him in the silence. Our loving adoration of Him will transform our divided hearts and minds, so we can do all that is asked of us.
Until then, we create a barrier to him by our agitation and our chattering. Unless we place our head on the heart of Christ, like Saint John, we will not have the strength to follow him to the Cross. If we do not take the time to listen to the heartbeats of our God, we will abandon him, we will betray him as the apostles themselves did.
Our parishes, our families, and our communities are spiritually dying because we do not ground our every action in prayer. We do not seek peace, silence, and rest in Christ. Instead, we are constantly busy making our own plans, implementing our own agendas, and seeking worldly successes that in the end are meaningless if they are not in accordance with God’s will. We cannot evangelize and transform the world if we are not a people of deep, intimate prayer. If we are not a people who first and foremost seek the face of God. This is the single greatest reason the Church is not an evangelical force in the West. We have chosen activity over prayer, so our works are often dead. Cardinal Sarah is calling us back to the one thing necessary.
Multiple priests have recently said that Eucharistic Adoration will save the world. St. Teresa of Calcutta said: “Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration with exposition needs a great push. People ask me: ‘What will convert America and save the world?’ My answer is prayer. What we need is for every parish to come before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in holy hours of prayer.” The answer to all of our needs can be found in the Blessed Sacrament. We must allow the radiance of His Eucharistic Face to transform our often selfish, cold, and wounded hearts.
We must confront the discomfort, anxiety, and distractions of our souls through the battle that is prayer. We must lead our families to pray even if it means sacrificing worldly things. We must run our parishes with prayer as the most important aspect of our communities and with all ministries flowing from prayer and proper discernment. All of our works will be dead if they are not watered through prayer. May we heed Cardinal Sarah’s warnings lest we abandon Our Lord and the Cross because we did not stay awake in the Garden in prayer.