Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B
We have a motto that many people live by: “The busier you are, the happier you are.” But is this true? If it were, we would see a whole lot more smiling faces around us.
We live in times where the days are long with work and the nights are short on rest. People are busier and busier, with less and less family time, and less and less quiet time. We need a balance in our living and today’s Gospel provides us with the example of Jesus Himself.
Jesus was at the home of Peter and Andrew. Word got out that He was there. And that evening “the whole town was gathered at the door.” So Jesus cured the sick and drove out demons, and it was a lot of work.
The Gospel goes on to say that early the next morning, Jesus was the first one up. He found a deserted place where He could pray to His Heavenly Father.
Stephen Covey, the author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, writes about “sharpening the saw before doing any cutting.” Jesus sharpened His saw by beginning His day with prayer.
Another writer puts it this way: “You don’t give the concert and then tune your violin. No, you tune your violin and then you give the concert.” Jesus began His day by praying to His Heavenly Father, and then He went out to do His Father’s work. And that is good example for us: prayer is an essential habit of highly effective disciples of Jesus.
Why would we think that we do not have time to pray every day? Or that daily prayer does not really make much difference?
Put yourself right now in Jesus’ place in the Gospel. Imagine that when you get home, you suddenly have miraculous powers of healing. People find out and they line up at your door this evening, and they will not let you go. So you engage in this healing work until it is very late.
Then tomorrow morning you might be tempted to think, “You know, I did a lot for the Lord last night, so I can just sleep in and skip prayer this morning.”
But that is not what Jesus did. He still got up early to pray the next morning before He took on the busyness of the rest of the day. As followers of Jesus, why would it be any different for us?
A couple came to realize that if they were to be the best parents in their family, they needed to begin each day with prayer. As Matthew Kelly tells us in The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic [which are prayer, study generosity and evangelization], prayer is the first sign. And, “If a day doesn’t get off to a good start, it rarely finishes as a good day” [page 43].
In other words, “If a day does not begin well, it probably will not end well.” This couple realized that bounding out of bed in the morning at the last minute – after several hits on the snooze alarm – put them in a rushing pace for the rest of the day. And not being “morning people,” this is what they did to insure some time with the Lord before they took on the day’s activities.
They set the timer on the coffee maker to begin brewing just before the time they wanted to get up. And the wonderful aroma of fresh coffee was an invitation and a reminder that the Lord was waiting for them. They called this “the coffee pot experiment,” and it worked for them.
Over time, they saw that beginning each day with prayer positively affected their family life and their outside activities. They became more focused and less rushed. They were convinced that “if a day begins well, it will probably end well.” They believed that, “You don’t find time for prayer. You make time for prayer.”
There are those moments during the day when we are moved to pray spontaneously. But having a regular daily prayer life is an essential habit of highly effective disciples of Jesus. And, “You don’t find time for prayer. You make time for prayer.”
Jesus prayed regularly and faithfully, and He gives us good example in today’s Gospel: “Rising early before dawn, He left and went off to a deserted place where He prayed.” If Jesus needed to pray in His daily life, how much more so do we.
I can tell you very honestly that I would not be able to do the things that I am called to do as a priest if I did not pray regularly and faithfully every single day.
If you wonder if regular daily prayer is necessary, if it is effective, if it makes any difference at all – ask someone you know who prays. And I already know what they will tell you.