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Advent Week One: A Time of Preparation, A Time of Prayer, Part I

The following blog is being reposted from the teaching series that I gave previously.  I hope that you enjoy it!

Great events are marked by great preparation. A wedding, the coming of a new baby, graduations, special anniversaries, significant birthdays, and celebrations of all sorts are often months in the planning.

Christmas is a spiritually significant event. And so it follows that Christmas is preceded by a time of serious preparation. Advent is that time. This liturgical season helps us prepare for the spiritual reality of Christmas -- the gift of our salvation through the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. How then can we make our Advent experience more fruitful?

All true spiritual preparation begins with prayer. Prayer is to the spiritual life as lungs are to the physical life. Without prayer, spiritual life cannot be sustained. It languishes, suffers and dies. For the Christian, prayer is not optional. It is essential.

Throughout the ages, great men and women of faith have shared their experiences of prayer with us. What they have written is helpful. It educates us, encourages us, and enlightens us. St. Teresa of Avila tells us that prayer is simply conversation with God. St. Francis de Sales says, "The chief exercise of prayer is to speak to God and to hear God speak in the bottom of your heart" (Letters to Persons in the World, 3, 11). And John Cardinal Newman states, "As speech is the organ of human society, and the means of human civilization, so is prayer the instrument of divine fellowship and divine training" (Miscellanies, 203).

But, in the end, the only way to pray is to begin. And the only way to pray well is to pray often. As one spiritual writer says, "The only way to pray is to pray; and the way to pray well is to pray much. If one has not time for this, then one must at least pray regularly. But the less one prays, the worse it goes" (Dom Chapman, Spiritual Letters).

And why shouldn't we pray much? In prayer, God lifts our hearts and minds to Him. Through prayer, He calls us into intimacy with Him. From prayer, we grow to spiritual maturity. And because of prayer, "the fundamental cause of present-day difficulties" is removed (Pope Pius XI, Caritate Christi compulsi, 1932).

How, then, can we pray better? Meditating on Sacred Scripture is one way. Sacred Scripture is God's revelation of Himself, and through it He speaks to us. With each reading, God instructs us, guides us, leads us, and answers our deepest needs. Using Sacred Scripture as a means of entering into prayer, then, is the best way to improve the quality of our prayer time.

Lectio-Divina is a centuries-old way of praying with Scripture. This way of praying can deepen our advent experience and help prepare us to receive the abundant life Jesus Christ longs to give us this Christmas. Tomorrow we will discover the six steps of Lectio-Divina and begin to utilize this ancient and efficacious prayer form.

Today's Questions for Reflection:

To what extent am I willing to make this Advent a truly holy time of preparation?

What practical adjustments may I have to make to follow through with my commitment? 

Which adjustment can I make today?

Copyright 2020, by Johnnette Benkovic Williams. All rights reserved.

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