Someone asked me why I get up most mornings for 5:30 swim practice – wouldn’t I like an extra hour or so of sleep, or maybe be able to stay up a little later the evening before? Extra sleep – sure. Stay up a little later – maybe. But the basic reason I get up so early is because I am intentional about having some semblance of a balanced life and that includes physical exercise. Once I am back at the parish, the course of the day may go as planned…or not, but I am free to respond without wondering if I can squeeze in a workout later in the day. It is liberating, even if a little bleary-eyed.
Being intentional is an essential and intrinsic part of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Discipleship, spiritual maturity, or however you would wish to describe being whole and complete as a Christian, is not an accident. Seeking God speaks of intentionality — the believer who desires to know God in a deeper way and strives toward that goal. When Jesus invited disciples to follow Him, it was a call to intentionally seek Him, to know Him, and to live for Him. This involves spending regular time with Him.
Worship at Mass, individual prayer, Bible Study, private reading and reflection, journaling – these are but a few of the intentional ways of seeking a deeper relationship with God. Hopefully, coming to Mass is intentional in that you prepare and participate in the Divine Worship, but it is only an hour or two out of 168 during a week. What about the other 167 hours or so? How do you intentionally seek out God? How much time is given to God? Add it up. I think you will be surprised.
Surveys indicate that women are more likely than men to pray outside of Mass. About 50 percent of people say they set aside a point in the day for intentional prayer a few days a week. 30% report intentional prayer between weekly and monthly. The remaining 20% report rarely to never being intentional about prayer. How about you? Or how about me? Am I as intentional about prayer as I am swimming? I am, but then I also have the benefit of a communal prayer life with my Franciscan brothers that frames and sets a rhythm for the day. In between I have my own prayer and reading.
Lent is coming up. Ash Wednesday is March 5th. If there is a season of the liturgical year that just calls for intentionality about prayers and reflection, it is Lent. What is your plan for Lent? What is your plan to plan? It has been said that if we aim at nothing, we will hit it every time. The same is true for prayer. If we are aimless in our prayer-life we will pray randomly, at best. May your Lenten season be intentional for God.