God at the Center
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well" (Mt 6:33). And "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Mt 6:24). These are two statements of Jesus give us a third reason to develop a stable prayer life - prayer centers our lives on God.
Our lives will only find their full balance and beauty when God is at the center of them. Faithfulness to prayer is what ensures that we give God center place concretely. Without fidelity to prayer, giving priority to God stands little chance of being more than a good intention or even an illusion. Our egos are always seeking to be the center of our lives, instead of the living God. We are battling a large number of different desires, demands, and fears. We have to struggle against our fallen human nature which tends to self-centeredness and pride. If we do enter into the battle against self by prayer, then we will find ourselves slowly detaching from our ego and re-centering our life on God. Everything else falls into place when God is at the center of our lives.
When we are at the center of our lives, we will tend to fall into extremes in our work, relationships, and every other reality. We will fall into coldness and negligence on one hand and dependency and unnecessary anguish on the other. For instance, if God is not at the center of a marriage than it can tend to be a zero-sum game. We want from the other the fulfillment of all our needs and wants. If we do not receive that fulfillment, then we tend to be angry or grow distant and cold. No one in this created world can satisfy all the desires of the heart. It is unfair to ask it of any person. In prayer, we begin to experience a healthy detachment from this false notion and to safeguard our inner freedom. Prayer leads us to freedom of heart - not expecting from others what they cannot possibly give us. Only God can fulfill us completely.
The relationship established in prayer between God and ourselves becomes a foundation of rock in a world of sand (see Mt 7:26). It seems that in the world everything is changing so rapidly that there is no foundation on which to stand. We must seek an interior foundation in God through prayer. Prayer teaches us to sink our roots into God. Jesus tells us to "abide in his love" (Jn 15:9). God is the only one in which we can find strength and security, and this enables us to become firm supporters of those around us.
God is the source of all power. In the times we feel defeated by life, work, or relationships, God is the rock who gives us inner strength to continue to love Him and serve Him. We will all face times of weariness and trial. These are good because they remind us that we are poor and in need of God. In a life of prayer, we can trust that God will give us the strength and power to do His will - to love and serve Him and others. Prayer is essential for God to be the center of our lives. God desires this for us because He wants our good. God fills us with power and strength, becomes our rock in the midst of the storms of life, sets our hearts free to love rightly, and frees us of our selfishness to the extent that He is at the center of our lives, and this occurs through an ever-deepening life of prayer.
Prayer, a response to God's Call
"We love because he first loved us" 1 Jn 4:19. St. John reminds us with this simple statement a great truth about God. He loved us into existence. He thirsts for our love. Although God desires us to seek Him that seeking is always a response. Prayer is a response to the call of God to enter into communion with Him. Our second reason to develop a stable prayer life is God's call: "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thes 5:17), "Watch and pray" (Mt 26:41), "Pray at all times" (Eph 6:18). Simply stated, we should pray because God asks us to pray.
The Creator of the universe, who created out of gratuitous love, asks us to enter into communion with Him: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Praying is not be based on our desire for God, or our personal initiative, or to receive valuable gifts from Him, but because the One who created us wants us to pray. He knows us better than we know ourselves; therefore, we should trust that He has a good reason for asking us to pray. His plans for us are infinitely beyond anything that we can imagine or desire.
Our prayer life is driven by faith. Faith is obedience to God's invitation, and trust in the One who invites. We cannot even imagine the profoundly positive consequences of a humble and sincere response to this call. If we hope to obtain the graces and gifts that we want from prayer, then we run the risk of being disappointed. The benefits of prayer are neither instant nor measurable nor many times what we want. The gift of prayer is more profound than that for which we ask. Prayer is a relationship of love with God. He is not a grandpa who wants to give us candy. God is a good and loving Father who wants to gift to us eternal life. If we pray with a humble attitude and submit to God's will, then we will always have the grace to persevere.
We will persist through the times that are dry and difficult because we trust in the One who has asked us to pray. We know He is close to us even in the times we do not recognize or feel it. Prayer deepens this trust while at the same time relying on it to help us persevere. This attitude of loving, trusting obedience is most profitable for our prayer life. Prayer will be abundant and beneficial to the degree that we do not desire to obtain anything from it, but approach it in obedience to the Divine call.
God knows what is good for us and that should be enough. We do not have to justify the time we spend in prayer. It is enough that God has asked us to "waste time" with Him. It is never a waste of time of course, but always beneficial and transformative. The more our prayer is done freely, not for a reward, the more it will bear fruit for this life and the next. Prayer that is done as a response to God's call is done out of love. Prayer is a response of love to Love.
Let us entrust ourselves to God and do whatever he asks of us, as Mary instructs the servants at the wedding feast of Cana and us - "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn 2:5). We should pray because God asks us to pray. He knows what we need and what will satisfy our hearts, which is Him alone. God will always, therefore, give us a deeper share of His divine life through prayer.
I am a Catholic priest writing about Catholic things.