Praying is an act of faith. When you pray, you are participating in your faith life, surrendering your pride, and trusting in the internally transformative power of prayer. Through prayer, you are actively inviting the Lord to enter into your life. This is how I typically understand prayer. Why, then, when I become busy and overwhelmed with the foreboding tasks of the day, week, month, or even year, is prayer always the first activity that I cut out of my day, in order to “make more time”?
All too often, I embody a utilitarian mindset; I measure my own self-worth, and that of others, by productivity, status, career ambitions, and accomplishments. I myself have always—and still do—try to live in a counter-cultural manner and strive to not allow utilitarian logic to direct my thoughts and actions. However, combatting this philosophy that influences our society and the way we think as individuals is an incredibly arduous task. In an attempt to be productive, to read more books, to learn more languages, to understand more cultures, and to be able to relate to more people, I place my worth and value in the quantity of information that I intake. While the quest for knowledge and truth is a beautiful one, if knowledge itself replaces God as the end or telos, we easily become overpowered by greed. It is a sneaky sort of greed, this greed—a greed for more experiences, to do more, read more, “be” more. This requires the smallest alteration to twist a noble goal—the pursuit of knowledge and truth—into something selfish. In my experience, a fine line exists between striving for excellence in order to glorify God versus making myself, my time, and my accomplishments into an idol.
Here is where prayer comes in. During hectic days where I feel stretched too thin, 25 minutes of prayer or daily Mass can seem like too much time taken away from me. Taken away from me—herein lies my own misunderstanding of time as something that I own, that I control, and that will ultimately serve me in achieving my goals. Time exists for me, right? I deserve time, it’s mine, and when someone or something unexpected comes and takes away my time, I have been wronged in some way. I need time, I need as much of it as possible, and I want to be the one who governs it. All too often, I find myself slipping into this mindset, and when I do, I find myself utterly lacking in gratitude and humility, and I must remind myself that time is a gift, and that I am not the owner of it. Trusting in the Lord means trusting that He will provide me with everything I need—including time itself. And that is why prayer is, in so many ways, an act of faith and of pure surrender. When we choose to pray, we are relinquishing “control” over time, and placing trust in God in order to participate in our dialogue and relationship with Him.
As Pope St. John Paul II said, “Prayer gives us strength for great ideals, for keeping up our faith, charity, purity, generosity; prayer gives us strength to rise up from indifference and guilt, if we have had the misfortune to give in to temptation and weakness. Prayer gives us light by which to see and to judge from God’s perspective and from eternity. That is why you must not give up on praying!”