When we were young, what was the first thing our parents did for us when it was cold outside? Told us to, “Bundle up”, they would say “It is cold out there – put some more clothes on.” It is good advice and I have repeatedly heard me and my wife say to our oldest two, “You are gonna get cold, find a sweatshirt or something.” There is just some solid common logic there, if it is cold, put on some layers.
Change perspectives to sports. Many sports have protective gear, creating layers of protection, it gives us both some mental comfort as well as physical protection that if something happens, our gear will help to protect us – it doesn’t make an athlete invincible, but a lot of potential injuries are avoided with the right protective sports gear in place.
One more visual, when we get in a car – what do we do? We buckle up. Not only it is the law, but there is irrefutable evidence that using a seat belt saves lives. We are protected against a lot of potential situations simply by taking that extra 5 secs and clicking that buckle.
So, in our spiritual lives, what makes it so hard to find time to pray? If we know that spending time with Christ in prayer is good, why don’t we “bundle up” more often? I make the excuses myself at times – “I am too ____” fill in the blank for the overly oppressive state that one feels at any given time. We just let ourselves coast along thinking that we will be fine, but in reality, we are not.
Our family was out at dinner not long ago and we paused for prayer before eating in this particular restaurant. While praying, I caught out of corner of my eye one of our girls looking around a bit. When we completed the prayer, even before I could get my “dad voice” all ready to go and talk to her about how we need to focus on prayer when praying and not be looking around, she beats me to the punch and says, “Dad, I am a little nervous when I pray in public.” “Whoa, okay.” I thought to myself. After gathering myself for a another second, I asked, “Why is that?” She told me that she just wasn’t sure what other people would think if they saw her praying. It made me pause for a good couple more of seconds…how can I explain to her what even adults struggle with from time – publicly praying and be OK that others are watching. I finally said to her, “Sweetie, when we pray, we are picking up a direct line to God, that is so special, that we shouldn’t think about what others may see us doing – we need to be proud and grateful that we can pray – you never know, if someone else sees us praying as a family, maybe that person will feel comfortable enough to pray next time too.” She accepted that, and I believe it somehow spoke to her in that moment, but in reality I know that she very well may come across that feeling of uncertainty again. By us praying as a family, that will continue to deepen her own personal comfort with praying in public, but it is a work in progress for all of us.
So it isn’t just prayer that can be good for our souls, there is certainly many more things we can do – one of the more recent discoveries on my own faith journey is the blessing of daily Mass. Not until about a year ago, did I really start to understand how wonderful it is to attend Mass more than one time a week. Church for some is like a quick fix pill, I walk in the door, I sit in the seat, I walk out and blamm-o! I have my spiritual one hour and I am ready to go. That was certainly me some time ago – I thought the one hour a week and occasional prayer was “good enough”. Truth is, I wasn’t bundled up for the cold. I have found that thru multiple encounters with Christ every week, is the only way to layer my soul to stay protected. And the more layers I add, the better I am protected, the better husband I am, the better father I am, the better employee I am, the better leader I am. Layer yourself in Christ’s love for you, make the time, it doesn’t take much. Find multiple encounters with Christ weekly, whether thru prayer, readings, reflection, daily Mass (even if you are not Catholic), it will change you in ways that is difficult to explain. But if for no other reason, it can be cold out there and we need all the layers we can get.