Lent is upon us, this year's opportunity for us to take a fresh look at our spiritual life. As our thoughts turn to what we're going to take on or give up for the next 40 days, they're also likely to turn back to our character flaws. We are all predisposed to a unique mix of temptation and sin, the ones that come up in confession after confession. Although this constant battle can wear us down, Lent reminds us that the war is already won.
For many years, I dealt with a low-grade discomfort from my stomach. What turned out to be un-diagnosed acid reflux would manifest itself regularly. I wasn't aware of the symptoms and thought it was normal digestion until Alison pointed out the symptoms that matched my experience. I worked my way up the treatment ladder from Tums to Prilosec OTC. Things got worse as I adapted to the keto diet, and I'm now on a daily dose of Prilosec. A single $0.13 pill, once a day, for a dime and three pennies, and I'm symptom-free.
The beginning of Lent tends to fire us up, much like New Year, and we set ambitious plans for ourselves. But unfortunately, by the time we reach the finished line of the Easter Triduum, many of those plans are left unfulfilled. In years past, I set out to overcome my greatest sin. On this blog, I encouraged you to do the same. But hearing the starting gun of Ash Wednesday and trying to quit that sin is like walking up to a Marathon and expecting to run the whole thing without a mile of training.
Our failures in Lents past may come from our obsessive focus on the sin itself. We don't have to beat sin or conquer sin; Jesus has done that already. All we have to do is to reassert that victory daily. We do this not by just rejecting sin or by avoiding temptation. Those are two vital components. Instead, our first step is to accept the grace and mercy of a God who loves us by implementing a robust prayer life. Prayer is the low-cost, easy to take preventative medicine that stops the symptoms of temptation before it starts. It strengthens us for the journey.
A complete prayer life isn't measured by minutes prayed, but frequency and consistency. It's not enough to sit in silence for an hour at the beginning of the day and check it off of our to-do list. The saints tell us to pray without ceasing, which they mean every day throughout our day. We need the grace and strength that prayer confers every day.
The Church instructs us to pray as we are able. That leaves the responsibility to each of us to craft a prayer plan and develop a prayer habit that leads us closer to the heart of God.
Prayer is communication within the most intimate relationship we share, that of the creator and created. We go throughout our day calling, texting, and talking with those we love most without script or agenda. That's the kind of relationship we should have with God through prayer.
A vibrant prayer life finds us praying in different ways throughout our day, always keeping a connection with God and with our identity as His child.
A well-lived life requires Scripture and Tradition, faith and works. We will never prevail in our struggle against sin if we focus on the sin itself. Instead, we first draw strength from prayer, and then we're prepared to contend with and subjugate temptation.