Prayer: A New Year’s Resolution for the Soul

1 January 2013

A very good New Year’s resolution for the soul is to spend more quality time with God in prayer.  Prayer is to the soul what physical exercise is to the body. Among the many prayers available to us, the most important one is the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13). It was given to us by our Lord, Who on many occasions during His life taught us how to pray. In the Sermon on the Mount, he says, “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6).

Our prayer is an expression of our love for God. This is the way we should regard our prayers – as a daily conversation with our Heavenly Father. In actuality, we many times pray only for that “reward” mentioned above by the Lord, and our focus is oftentimes on the worldly rewards.

There are two kinds of rewards for which we should ask in our prayers. The first is part of “our daily bread,” the things that we need in this earthly life. We pray for good health, for help in our daily activities, for prosperity and for protection against our enemies. It is good to pray for all of these things. The Lord himself encourages us to do so: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

The other kind of reward we should ask for in our prayers is part of the “treasures in Heaven”(Matthew 6:20).  Since God gave us the commandment of love, and since God is love with His Kingdom established in love, we should pray for the growth of our own love. Another essential thing that the Lord taught us to pray for is forgiveness. We must pray that God will change our hearts to be able to forgive those who have trespassed against us. We must learn forgiveness, beginning with ourselves. When we are able to understand and accept our own imperfections and our own human frailty, only then, can we begin to forgive others. Our forgiveness is important, for it is also a condition for God’s forgiveness of us (Matthew 6:14-15).

Prayer is important, and we should pray for these two kinds of rewards. Think, however, of how restricted and fractional our lives would be if we prayed for only the “earthly rewards.”  The rewards we get in this temporal life may be great, but they are imperfect and temporary.  If we pray and work only for these, excluding the “treasures in Heaven,” then we risk losing our souls. “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” asks the Lord. “Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

On the other hand, when we pray and struggle for the Heavenly rewards, we not only gain His Kingdom and everlasting life. We also gain everything. The Lord assured us not to worry about the earthly things, “for your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first theKingdomofGodand His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:32-33).

Clearly, it is not only the amount, but also the quality of our prayers that is important. In trying to balance the two aspects of prayer, however, we can inhibit our loving conversation with God.  For this reason, I believe the act of prayer is more important than how we pray. We can ask for almost anything in this life, except for evil things, as long as we remember to end our prayer with, “Your Will be done!” I usually finish my prayer with these words, acknowledging the fact that God knows what the best is for me, ultimately. If my prayers are not beneficial for my earthly and spiritual needs, I do rely on Him to correct them with His loving care.

This article was originally published in the Candle, 2004. 

This article is posted here with the direct permission from the Candle and Fr. Cornel Todeasa.