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 showing us how God works within our lives. 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 still none of this is seen.
This can be compared to our prayer life. Often times people give up praying because after they make some initial attempts they do not experience any emotional reactions, have any mystical encounters, do not see any tangible results, nor do they 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 someone has prepared the soil, planted the seed, waters as directed, but then sees no immediate results, and then is distracted by other activities, forgets to water, there is still the process of germination, there may even be some sprouting, 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. 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 works on God’s timing, not our own.
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 may be praying in a way that is not conducive to our personality. 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 the intentions for those whom I am aware have needs, quiet times of meditation and contemplation, reading Scripture, and writing this blog each day. I have also slowly begun to walk again in the evenings. Though I do not necessarily notice any profound insights or luminous encounters day to day, I have had a few but what I have noticed over the past ten years of 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 invitation is 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 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.
Whether sitting or walking. Once you determine you are beginning to pray, I have found taking some slow deep breaths is a good way to begin. This small act lets us know we are leaving our fast pace and slowing ourselves down. Then as you sit or walk in silence just be still, ask God to guide you and listen. After a minute or two of silence, you may remain silent or if drawn to: read a passage of scripture and meditate upon in, review your day or the prior day, pray slowly with beads in hand the mysteries of the rosary, the chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Jesus Prayer, pray for others, share your intentions, struggles, questions, hopes, and dreams, and if outside just be open to the wonder of creation. When you come to a close, end as you started, returning to your breath, be still, be open, and be thankful for this time.
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). We just need to be consistent and persistent with our prayer life as we would taking care of a plant and trust that the invitation Jesus offers us, the seed he has planted in us, in God’s time, will sprout and grow.
Photo: Quiet time porch view Saturday evening. Please feel free to share a prayer practice that has been helpful for you.