In our busy lives, it can be easy to get through the entire day and realize that you didn’t connect with the Lord in prayer at all. We can often think of prayer as a single part of our lives, something on our to-do list, but we are called instead to ‘pray unceasingly.’ So how do we do it?
Fr. Ethan Southard, a priest from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, stopped by The Inner Life® recently to share how we can develop a lifestyle of prayer. He said:
“A lifestyle of prayer maybe sounds a little complicated, or intimidating. But it’s just supposed to be something simple, just the way that we live.
Jesus says, in chapter 15 of the Gospel of John, abide in Me, just as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit on its own, unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.
So that lifestyle of prayer is simply that – it’s just abiding with the Lord and letting the Lord actually pray within us. And to do that, we just slow down a little bit in our daily lives. It means we don’t have to try so hard, because we let the Lord just live His life within us.
Our world right now likes to categorize things, to put things in a certain box to make it nice and easy. And it’s kind of divisive in that way. Maybe we can start to check boxes off, and say ‘Ok, I went to Mass on Sunday and I said prayer at my meals, and I said my prayer before I went to bed. But now it’s time for work, and I go to do work.’
It’s not so much a separation of prayer or of checking off a box, but Jesus is really inviting us into a relationship. The same relationship that He has with His heavenly father, Jesus is drawing us into that relationship with the Holy Spirit. We’re actually being drawn into that inner life that Jesus has, living within Him.
So that life is not something that can be turned on or turned off, or put in this box or that box, or separated. It’s a life that flows through us. And we’re actually given this life, we’re invited into that relationship, in our baptism. Because it’s in our baptism that we’re actually divinized – we’re given the very inner life of God. That’s why we’re baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
That relationship that we are drawn into starts to well up within our hearts, within our souls, and it pours out in everything we do. So even something as simple as taking a walk in the morning becomes a prayer. Or when we go to work and sit down to work, that becomes a prayer.
I’m actually sitting at a desk chair, and there’s a little sign that says, ‘Ora et labora.’ And that’s from St. Benedict. St. Benedict was saying to just move in that rhythm of work and prayer – just this nice, easy abiding in the Lord. Let Him do our work and let Him live His life within us.
Sometimes we think that when we pray everything has to be perfect and still, and nice and easy and clean. And then I’ll feel good when I pray. That’s what it seems like, but when Jesus was on the Cross that was probably the deepest and most intimate prayer. It was ugly and kind of messy, and the night before He went to the Cross He was begging that the cup would pass from Him.
So, maybe if we’re in high school or college and we have a big exam, or if we have a big project due at work, or maybe we have to visit somebody that we don’t get along with. We may not be excited about going to do it, but that could actually be a prayer. We could even pray, ‘Jesus, I don’t want to have to go to that meeting tomorrow,’ or ‘Jesus, let me stay away from the family reunion. But if it’s Your will, let it be done.’
It’s that surrendering and accepting of God’s will in our life. That’s the deeper abiding. Even though it may be scary, we may be caught in traffic, we might get frustrated, but if we’re abiding in the Lord there is that life that is happening on the inside.
It’s that inner life coming up within us as we’re abiding with Him, and all of a sudden those difficult things on the outside can seem a little bit easier. It actually does become a prayer.”
Listen to the full reflection below: