The Catechism tells us that “prayer is a battle,” and, “The ‘spiritual battle’ of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer” (no. 2725). We do not expect battles to be easy or consoling. We expect them to be dangerous and difficult. Of course, prayer is sometimes consoling, and it leads to abiding peace and joy. But before we experience that peace and joy, we have to fight against ourselves, the pull of the world, and the Devil. We cannot triumph before we take up the sword.
The Catechism goes on to say, “In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures” (2726). The first skirmish is understanding that prayer is, at heart, a conversation with God.
The same paragraph says, “Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they ‘don’t have the time’.” We might suppose, then, that our next battle is carving out time for prayer. I believe something else must come first, however.
Once when talking to an acquaintance who was a college professor, I asked him what he had been reading lately. He replied, “I don’t have time to read.” No doubt he was busy. But my thought then and now was, You really mean that reading is not one of your priorities. I have always loved reading. No matter how busy I have been, from working three jobs to caring for an infant, I have always made time to read.
We can apply this to prayer. If your first reaction to the thought of starting a prayer routine is, “I don’t have the time,” aren’t you saying that you think other things more important? Don’t get me wrong. I understand that you are busy. I am busy too. But can you be too busy for God? If you wanted to spend time regularly with your spouse but were always told, “Sorry, I’m just too busy,” that would not be a good sign for your marriage. In a healthy marriage, spouses make spending time together a priority. So it is in a healthy relationship with God.
Rarely is anyone too busy to eat. We attempt to get adequate sleep no matter how full our schedule is. We make time for whatever is most important to us. Our next battle, then, is to embrace the importance of prayer, to make it a priority. If it is one of our top priorities, we will somehow find the time to pray regularly.
We know we cannot live a healthy life without enough food and sleep. We must embrace the truth that without daily prayer we cannot have a healthy spiritual life. We must embrace the truth that spiritual health is even more important than physical health. When we do so, we will no more skip praying than we will skip eating or sleeping.
Prayer is a battle. It requires fighting the mindset of the world that other tasks are more important. Until we conquer this mindset, we will never be faithful in prayer.