The Holy Father’s intention for the month of December is prayer. Through a life of prayer, “we change reality, we change our hearts.” He insists on us entering into dialogue with the Father through prayer because Jesus Himself never neglected his intimate dialogue with the Father. Prayer not only leads us closer to God the Father but through prayer we listen to Jesus, contemplate Jesus, we speak to Him as a friend and He transforms us.
Pope Francis also stated that prayer and mission of the Church are “indissolubly united.” Prayer not only nurtures our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but it also leads us on the mission of the Church. He summed up that “the mission of the Church is at the service of the challenges of the world, and it is not possible without prayer.” Our hearts change when we pray, and we can do many things when we are constantly in prayer. Prayer is essential for mission, it is the heart which opens us to love. When we are in the depths of prayer, it yields “thirty, sixty, and even a hundred-fold” (MK 4:20). In this season of Advent, we should constantly develop our personal relationship with Jesus, and by our life of prayer, we carry out our mission of the Church “to live a life of love,” (2 Jn: 6).
We observe the season of Advent as a time of expectant waiting and a preparation for the celebration of the Incarnation – “the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14). Through Advent prayers we connect with God’s love and seek his assistance to make our hearts ready to receive the gift of His Son once again this Christmas. Prayer helps us to clear the path in our hearts from all kinds of distractions that hinder us from experiencing the presence of Jesus in our lives. Very often we give up our prayer life when we face destruction. When we don’t pray during difficult times, we become hardened and insensitive and it diminishes our spiritual life.
Many priests and spiritual directors have asked me about my prayer life. I don’t always give my best in cultivating my prayer habits especially with the Liturgy of the Hours (Breviary). Since early priesthood, I always spend time praying in my room. Initially, I prayed in my parish office, but often I got distracted either with my works or pastoral duties. I realised whenever I carried out my prayer sessions in my office, somehow this would be abruptly stopped or interrupted with other commitments. I know I always give priority to my pastoral duties rather than spiritual aspects. I always choose to work which is easier for me rather than to pray. That is the reality that I observe in my priestly life. However, the Holy Father has reminded me through his intention, that I need to change this reality of my prayer life being overshowed by my pastoral duties. I pray that I will have a change of heart – to be able to pay more attention to my prayer life, rather than being constantly engaged with pastoral commitments.
During this Advent season, a season of prayer, I hope everyone of us pays more attention to prayer – as a gift of God – as we prepare to welcome the coming of His Son Jesus once again into our hearts and homes. Our faith and belief tell us that God wants to be with us (MT 28:20) and stay with us always (LK 24: 29). Although prayer is a struggle for everyone, we must make a conscious effort especially during this time of year. Despite all that is weighing us down, stay committed by remaining in prayer, as we open wide our hearts to welcome Him into our lives.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy