For the past few months, the Lord has been speaking to my heart about my need to develop and cultivate a lifestyle of prayer. He has been having me reflect on the fact that Jesus was shown in the Gospels as often retreating away in the evening to spend time in the presence of His heavenly Father.
My dear friend and former spiritual director, Fr. Tom Forrest, wrote a wonderful book titled “Move It Out!“. Fr. Tom had been a close friend to both Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II when they were here in this life, and one chapter in this book was about John Paul. We all know how this man we now affectionately refer to as John Paul the Great was truly an anointed man of God. He impacted the modern world in a way that few others could ever dream of. There are countless stories and testimonies that relate how just being in the presence of this man was enough to make grown men cry. I remember reading about how, when he attended the World Youth Days, whole cities would feel an almost palpable presence of the Lord. Where do you suppose that this Pope got his charisma from? Well, as Fr. Tom described the daily routine of the Pope, the answer jumps out at you: Pope John Paul, one of the busiest and most sought-after men on the planet, always made the time to devote at least 6 hours each day to be in the presence of the Lord. As a man, a shepherd, and an apostle of the Lord, the Pope knew where his everything came from, and his daily life routine reflected it. Because he was willing to devote so much of his time and being unreservedly to his Savior, the Lord showered (no, flooded) his being with incredible graces.
We have yet another powerful example of the need to devote time in prayer daily, and that is the Lord Jesus himself. If you really think about it, this just blows your mind! Here is the creator of the universe, the very son of the living God, the one who made and sustains everything that we can touch and feel. And He needed to devote much time to private prayer and communion with the Father? Oh, come on! Yet, Jesus knew tha everything he needed came from the Father, so He made a daily investment of his time just to be with the Father one-on-one. As a result, he was able to perform great miracles, speak the truth even when it was inconvenient, and even obediently die on a cross.
Now, if these two great men of God recognized and obeyed the need for intimate daily time with the Father, how much more, then, do we mere mortals need to do the same! In response to this revelation, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, over the past few months I have developed and refined what I call my daily spiritual exercises. It consists of prayers, scripture readings, personal reflections, and spiritual reading interspersed throughout the day. If I complete them all, they amount to about two hours devoted to the Lord. The cool part is, that even on the days where I am unable to complete all of the exercises, I can still get at least one hour in.
Since these activities are distributed throughout the day, they do not individually take up a lot of time. But when they are added up, they represent almost ten percent of the time allotted to each day. (Sound like a tithe?) Since implementing this daily regimen, the Lord has been helping me to hone and sharpen my skills in using the many weapons of spiritual warfare that He has entrusted into my unworthy hands. I feel like I am in spiritual bootcamp all over again. Another difference that I have noticed is an enhanced sensitivity to that “still, small voice” of His in my heart. And of course, there is a deeper sense of peace and certainty inside me, amidst the storms that we continue to experience.
One final note, before incorporating this daily routine, I was wasting 4 or 5 hours a day watching television. Now I watch almost no TV, and you know what? I do not miss it one bit. In fact, it feels so good to have my spiritual fire back after having lost it for several years. My challenge to you is: Are you willing to give up just one hour of TV each day to devote it to the Lord? If not, then you have allowed TV to become your God, and you can probably guess how He feels about that.
The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.
Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”