Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject whatever is harmful. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
It is helpful to understand that regularity is more sustaining in prayer that intensity or length. You are spending time with God, learning who God is and who you are, learning to love God and God’s world, and this happens over a matter of years. If you miss some days, start again, and think small. A brother told an Abba that he had gotten away from his monastic disciplines, presumably including his prayer life, and he felt too discouraged to begin again. The Abba replied by telling him this story:
“A man had a plot of land. And through his carelessness brambles sprang up and it became a wilderness of thistles and thorns. Then he decided to cultivate it. So he said to his son: ‘Go and clear that ground.’ So the son went to clear it, and saw that the thistles and thorns had multiplied. …[The son] said, ‘How much time I shall need to clear and weed all this?’ And he lay on the ground and went to sleep. He did this day after day. Later his father came to see what he had done, and found him doing nothing.”
When his father asked him about it, the son replied that the job looked so bad that he could never make himself begin. His father replied, “’Son, if you had cleared each day the area on which you lay down, your work would have advanced slowly and you would not have lost heart.’ So the lad did what his father said, and in a short time the plot was cultivated.”
So the Abba told the discouraged brother, “Do a little work and do not faint, and God will give you grace.”
If it is true that we are formed by prayer, it is particularly true that we are formed by praying Scripture. Abba Poemen said: “The nature of water is soft, that of stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung above the stone, allowing the water to fall drop by drop, it wears away the stone. So it is with the word of God; it is soft and our heart is hard, but the person who hears the word of God often opens the heart to the awe of God.”
Satisfying God, it sometimes hurts to hope, and so I settle for less. I confess that I’ve often given my heart to impostors and counterfeits that can never deliver. Nurture in me a desire for your generous reward—a glory I can hardly begin to imagine—and a longing for that great day when I will fully enjoy your promises in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Read the Scripture again slowly…find a word or phrase that catches your eye or moves your heart… slowly repeat it… pray your thoughts, desires, needs, and feelings from your meditation… enjoy the presence of your Lord and Savior.