Somewhere between faith and hope lies the virtue of trust, which among the three is perhaps the one that counts most on us.
In today’s Gospel (Luke 18:1-8), the Lord shows us how and where we can exercise and measure our trust. The measure of our trust in God reveals itself when we examine our prayer.
Jesus uses a parable to illustrate this point.
The woman who seeks justice will pester the unjust judge until she gets what she wants, and eventually the judge will cave in to her requests, simply because he wants her off his back. What an unusual example for Jesus to give! Why compare God the Father to an unjust judge?
The point to this comparison is when we give up on God, we treat him worse than we would treat an unjust judge. What an insult! What a lack of trust!
There is a deeper point that I would like to focus on here. Perhaps the example above does not apply to you. After all, on the surface, Jesus is asking have you given up on prayer? Are you praying enough? Do you even have confidence in God? These are all important questions to which people can give different answers — that is, if they consider these questions in the first place. One can only give answers to these questions if one takes the time to examine one’s prayer.
I think that is a more pertinent question for most of us: Do you take time to examine your prayer?
If you take a little time each day to ask yourself how we you paying — this can take just 5 or 10 minutes — you can learn a lot about yourself and your relationship with God.
You can ask yourself:
- Am I opening my heart to God?
- Am I holding anything back?
- Am I focusing on the right things?
- Am I distracted with the wrong things?
- What are my distractions and why am I distracted by these things ?
- How much of my prayer do I focus on myself?
- Am I listening for God’s response?
- In what ways might God have responded to me in my prayer?
- What can I do to pray better? Is there a better time or place for me to pray?
You can take any of these questions or come up with other ones that apply to your particular situation.
The best time to examine your prayer is right at the end of the prayer itself. This does not mean you have to add more prayer time to your schedule. Rather, you can simply reserve the last 5 to 10 minutes of the time you have set aside for prayer to examine your prayer. More often than not, people find that this is when they reap the fruit from their prayer, so it is time well spent.
If you would like more suggestions on how and what to examine in your prayer, a good place to consult is the part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that deals with prayer, particularly in the section dedicated to objections to prayer. The paragraphs in this section include distractions and temptations in prayer, filial trust, and perseverance. You may find something here that applies specifically to your own prayer life in general or during a particular phase in your life. You may find many things that present difficulties to you in prayer.
If that’s the case, don’t try to take it all on at once. It’s a good idea to deal with one thing at a time. Focus on one point, say, distractions in prayer for a week. Keep a journal where you jot down your obstacles, your progress, and any lights or inspirations that come to you during the examination. At the end of the week review your progress and see how much you’ve grown.
Give it a try and you will realize that the examination is the part of the prayer when God speaks to you the most, or better said, the time when you can best see that God was speaking to you and answering your prayer.