How Much Should You Pray
It's a relevant question coming into this period of lent. It may be the last lent for some. For many it may be the last lent outside the cauldron of a persecuted Church. Without a deeply rooted prayer life we will not stand erect in the storms that are gathering against the church, neither will we be able to discern the light from the darkness (disguised as light), the deception of the enemy from the call of the bridegroom. The mystical relationship that is forged through prayer imbues us with supernatural strength needed to stand fast, or rather to allow Christ to stand fast within. We can fast from food and remain healthy in body but we can't fast from prayer. We often eat until we are full, but how many remain in prayer until they are "full". The mark of authentic prayer is that we are not the same within afterwards as we were before. Something has shifted within, sometimes sensibly detectable, but always in terms of fruits.
So what should our attitude be to prayer? Some things are best expressed in stories and parables...
A young novice went to his novice master in the monastery and said. "Master, teach me what it means to pray" The elder Monk said, "I will teach you if, before God and His Mother, you promise me holy obedience". "Very well", said the young novice. So the elder monk said. Meet me tomorrow down by the river at the end of the monastery grounds after Lauds. Having agreed he set out full of expectation the next morning after Lauds. He met the novice master by the river who said, "take of your habit and get into the water". He did as he was asked, despite growing misgivings as he had expected an eloquent oracle on the subject of prayer and the interior life. "Get under the water and don't come out until I tell you". With a growing sense of unease the young novice did as he was instructed and plunged underwater. A half minute passed, the novice was beginning to have to make the effort to hold his breath and yet, there was no word from the river-bank. A full minute passed and he was starting to feel a lot of discomfort, and still there was no word from above. After 1 minute 30 seconds the novice was in great distress and struggling to hold it and still there was no word. He was also starting to feel a bit of resentment towards the novice master for forcing him to endure this theatre. At one minute and 75 seconds he was in agony and could no longer endure it. He burst upwards out of the water gasping for breath and full of anger at the novice master. "Why didn't you ask me to come out he stuttered furiously through uncontrolled gasps. The novice master just smiled at him and said - "when you feel the need to pray like you felt the need to breath" - then you will understand what prayer is".
"Pray at all times in the Spirit" (Eph 6:18).