Prayer and Some Obstacles That Get in the Way
Too busy to pray? Too tired to pray? Too distracted to pray? Got no space to pray? A lack of time, energy, and space are some of the common obstacles to developing and sustaining the rhythm of daily, personal prayer. Believe it or not, we are not the first to face these obstacles to prayer.
I suggest that we look to Jesus as our model for prayer and see how he addressed the obstacles to his prayer. Take a look at the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. There the hectic pace of a couple of days in Jesus’ life is revealed. After calling his disciples Jesus enters the synagogue and begins to teach. While teaching, a man with an unclean spirit cries out to him and Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit to come out of the man. He leaves the synagogue and goes to Simon’s home, probably hoping to get a little rest. As he walks into the home he finds Simon’s mother-in-law laying there ill and he heals her. The day is not over, as sunset draws near the whole town is gathering at the door waiting to be healed. I suspect the healing went late into the night.
What does Mark’s gospel tell us he does the next day? Rather than sleeping in, he rises early and goes off to a lonely place where he is absorbed in prayer. While in prayer, the disciples manage to track him down and tell him that everybody has been looking for him. So, off he goes to the neighboring villages. He is approached by a leper whom he heals and runs off to tell everyone what happened to him. As a result of that encounter it is no longer possible for him to enter a place openly.
What sustained Jesus? Mark’s gospel has him constantly going off to spend time in prayer with the Father. So, like Jesus, prayer must be central in our lives if we are to have a right relationship with God – who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We must make prayer a priority in our lives just as Jesus did in his. That means that we have to carve out time and make it a regular and repeated pattern in our lives.
Think of the fiancé who calls to say that he is sorry he can’t keep tonight’s date. That call would be understood once or twice – with the exception of last night, Valentine’s Day. What if he did that every day for weeks or months? His fiancé would obviously realize that there was no love there. We can’t treat God, whom we say we love, in that way either. The obstacles to prayer are on our end, not God’s. God is always there – waiting for us – loving us. I have to be honest and admit; in those experiences when I have felt that God was at a distance, over and over I realized that I was the one who moved away. I let other realities in my life get in the way of time what should have been spent in prayer. I suspect, if you are honesty, you will come to that same realization.
So, make time to pray daily. Schedule it on your calendar like you do your other appointments and then keep it like you do all of your other appointments. Check the rhythm of your life – is it better for you to pray in the morning or in the evening? Begin with a small amount of time. Something realistic – perhaps 10 or 15 minutes if you are a beginning or starting up again. Then increase the time gradually.
Find the appropriate space to pray. Get creative. Maybe you have a space in your home where you can go to be alone – use that space only for time in prayer. Maybe it’s in the car on the way to work – or while exercising, doing the dishes or taking a shower. It might be at Adoration Chapel at Saint John Bosco – it is open to everyone seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. Wherever that space is – make it your place for prayer.
Develop your own ritual. Light a candle. Perhaps some appropriate music. A posture that is helpful. Silence the cell phone from outside calls, emails & texts. Then, speak to the Lord from your heart. Talk with him like you talk with someone whom you love. It’s really that easy. Just being there in God’s presence is prayer – a time spent “in communion” with God.
But, the key is discipline. You have to work at it daily. Ash Wednesday is just around the corner, so make an intentional commitment today to making prayer a regular part of your daily schedule. Trust me, it will give you peace – it will give you inner strength!
Question – What is the best time in your day for prayer? Where’s your favorite place to pray? Do you have any ritual that you have found helpful that you would like to share?