Today I sat in the waiting room at Pep Boys for the third time in three weeks trying to get my car inspected. The first time I took it in of course there were problems, but it was something recurring that I wanted a second opinion on, so I just had them change my oil and I left. Driving it around it seemed like it would be best if I just got the issue diagnosed and fixed so that I could get the car to pass the rapidly approaching due date for inspection. So, I took the car in for a second time and got the engine problem fixed. Now I simply had to drive around for 50-100 miles and make sure the light stayed off so it could be inspected. For the cherry on top, during the time of driving before the car could be properly inspected, somehow my front light cover was busted in without explanation or my knowledge.
So today is the big day, hopefully the car would pass even though my tape job over the light was not the prettiest.
Sometimes I think our prayer can look a lot like this story. It is full of distractions and difficulties seen and unforeseen by us. For me, often times I will have a good couple days of prayer and then somehow think that I can fix something myself. I leave early with the plan to "make my day effective" on my own and skip out on the 15-20 minutes I had set aside for God.
The thing is, God always knows that we will have to come back to Him if we want to live the Christian life we were called to. We do not get to a point where weekly, monthly and yearly maintenance needs to be done in our lives. We need those moments of "inspection", which only come through prayer. We need to ask the Lord for the grace to see our lives as they are. We must be expectant of distractions on this journey and be ready to work through them. If anyone buys a car and expects there to never be a problem with it we would call that person crazy.
Prayer is a constant journey and it must be a give and take relationship. There are things the Lord wants us to tell Him, but He also desires us to be good listeners as well. We can only cruise along for so long before something in life will happen.
The beautiful thing about Life is that as much as the Lord wants to free us and heal us from all evils and hardships, He gives us an opportunity to participate in that saving grace. He does not force Himself on us, but waits for us to ask and to work with Him. There are certain things that only the Lord can do, namely the forgiveness of sins. These are like the engine problems with our car that we need a mechanic for. But there are also some smaller things, like setting aside time for prayer and making good habits that we can do with the Lords help! These are things like washing the car and replacing broken parts (like I will do with my smashed headlight cover). There is a reason that a car needs yearly inspection as well. We can keep everything up to date on our own, but sometimes we need someone else to take a look and make sure things haven't been slowly declining. There is a reason many spiritual advisors propose yearly retreats as well as one "desert day" a month to focus on our spiritual lives.
Life can get busy, and before you know it you are 7,000 miles due on an oil change and forgetting to get your car inspected. Prayer is our life line. It is the source of grace and communication with our Creator. It must not be forgotten or overlooked because of hardship and difficulty.
As we all know it is much better to stay on top of something than slowly ride it out and fall into disrepair (and them have to spend $300 on your engine to get it back on track).
Alright, I promise I will never write another car analogy again, but I hope this was a helpful way to look at our spiritual lives. Finally, we are much more important than cars, it is easy simply to do the maintenance necessary to keep a car on the road. However, we do not want to just be maintaining our lives and the easiest possible level. We are called to strive and to thrive. Prayer is the means by which we will become the best versions of ourselves and there is no way about it.
If you would like some prayer tips and advice, we have great resources in talks on FORMED.ORG as well as a parish library outside the chapel. I highly recommend anything by Fr. Jacques Philippe, especially TIME FOR GOD which you can read about and purchase here: frjacquesphilippe.com/book/time-god
God bless you all and I hope to see you around this Summer!