Today we return to the Gospel of Mark and his recording of the two parables dealing with seeds sown and the planting of a mustard seed. The purpose of each of these parables is that Jesus is comparing each to the kingdom of God, how God works within our life. A lot of the initial work of God is unnoticed, like the planting of a seed in the ground. Over time, with nourishment and water the seed will germinate and sprout but none of this is seen.
This can be compared to our prayer life. Often times people give up praying because they make some initial attempts, but do not experience any emotional reactions, do not have any mystical encounters, do not see any tangible results, and do not feel any closer to God than when they began to pray in the first place. With so many demands on their time, they may then feel that prayer is a waste of time and they give up, or are distracted by other more alluring pursuits.
When this is the approach of someone who has prepared the soil, planted the seed, waters as directed, but then sees no immediate results, is distracted by other activities, forgets to water, there is still the process of germination, there may even be some sprouting from the shell of the seed, but without the water, the development will be stifled and could indeed die.
Our desire to pray is already a response to God’s planting of the seed of his kingdom in us, but just as in the analogy of the seed, we need to be consistent and persistent in our life of prayer. Even though there may be no sensation or evidence that anything is happening, whenever we turn to God in prayer, something is happening. When we have responded to God’s invitation, he will bring to fruition our response. This is also true when we are praying for others as well as evangelizing. We are living in a time of instant gratification and unfortunately are not as patient as we need to be, the ways of God’s kingdom and will work on God’s timing, not our own.
As each of us have distinct personalities and interests, so there are many ways to pray that will suit our uniqueness. Another reason that we may feel prayer is not working for us is that we are praying in a way that is not conducive to our personality, and it may not be meant to. Instead of ceasing to pray altogether, put into practice a different technique until the right fit is attained.
What has personally worked for me is the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, reciting the names of persons and intentions of those I am aware of who have needs, quiet times of meditation and contemplation, reading Scripture, and even writing this blog. Through the day to day, I do not necessarily notice any profound insights or luminous encounters, though I have had a few. What I have noticed over the past ten years of a more daily commitment to prayer is that there has been a transformation in my life for the better.
If a daily commitment of prayer has been a struggle, my recommendation would be to choose a comfortable place that is as free of distractions as possible, and commit to spending five to ten minutes in that same place each day. If you are more visual, add a candle, the crucifix, an icon, or religious statue. If you feel more of a connection to the natural world of God’s creation, a place outside might work well too. Then choose a prayer practice that appeals to you, schedule that time to be spent in your sacred space each day, and let God happen.
Just as a seed is planted and watered, it will soon germinate, and sprout, followed by the “first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come” (Mk 24: 28-29). May we be as persistent with our prayer life as we would in growing and caring for a seed planted. May we trust that the invitation Jesus offers us, the seed he has planted in us to be a part of his kingdom will, in God’s time, bear fruit.
Photo: Praying outside in my parents garden yesterday morning.
Link for the Mass readings for Sunday, June 17, 2018: