As a child I took piano lessons, but I never developed a routine of practicing. When I did practice—when I felt like it or got around to it in the midst of all the other things I was doing—I was more likely to play what I wanted to than to do the exercises that my teacher had given me. After a few years the lessons ended. I learned a few things that still serve me today, but I lost many of the gifts I could have been given, in particular the joy of being able to share piano music with others.
Spiritual practices, for example centering prayer, are also hard to practice and maintain. We are drawn by so many other good things (to say nothing of those not so good). Spiritual disciplines may be viewed as obligations, something we should do, which makes practice seem burdensome. We may be into costs and benefits and not be sure what the benefit might be or whether it is something we really care about. And to make a practice routine takes commitment and months of daily choosing to do it.
The good news is that any spiritual practice that we do, whenever we do it, has value because God is present. Regular doing of the practice may make us experienced in the discipline and more likely to recognize and cherish the riches we are being given. Perhaps in our very being, the joy we have received through our practice will be shared. A deep longing for relationship with God opens the door.
What spiritual practice do you do, or might you be drawn to, individually or in a community—for example, centering prayer, praying for others, journaling, meditation, Bible reading and reflection, fasting, quiet time; participation in liturgy or Eucharist, expectant waiting worship, service?
What might help you establish a routine of doing the practice? What is the desire of your heart?
“Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me true faith, certain hope and perfect charity, sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out Your holy and true command.” (The Prayer Before the Crucifix at San Damiano, St. Francis of Assisi, www.ofm.org/francesco/pray/pray01.php)
For further reflection:
“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for you, O God” (See Psalm 42:1-2).
“Nothing that anyone says [about prayer] will be that important. The great thing is prayer. Prayer itself. If you want a life of prayer, the way to get to it is by praying.” (Notes from Brother David Steindl-Rast with Thomas Merton) www.gratefulness.org/resource/recollections-of-thomas-mertons-last-days-in-the-west/