We Must Develop a Habit of Prayer

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“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? To whom, or to what do we tend to offer ourselves as “obedient slaves”? This is a question that each one of us must answer for ourselves. This is why we are called to be self-reflective in the light of our relationship to God. We must be committed to recognizing how our thoughts, words, and deeds reveal our habits of vice, or our habits of virtue.

How can we develop this habit of self-reflection? First, we must develop a habit of prayer. In this we develop a deeper relationship with Jesus, who is our generous guide in all things good, true, and beautiful. If we develop this relationship in humility, always looking to Jesus as our example, he will guide us in our growing awareness of ourselves. The first, humble recognition of a disciple of Jesus is that one is a sinner in great need of his love and his mercy. It is to know that Jesus came into the world because or our sins, yes, ours in particular. What then are my sins?

Am I a slave to pride? Am I boastful? Am I in the habit of judging and condemning others, yet never see my own failings, never recognize myself as the possible problem? Do I set myself above others, tearing them down with my words? Am I prejudiced in any way? These are the habits of pride, or rather, false pride. Am I guilty of thinking that, “it’s all about me?” Do I cause others harm if they, in some way, don’t treat me appropriately, that is, in my own estimation? Pride is difficult habit to break. This is why we must keep our eyes on Jesus and go to him for his help. He will not let us down, either with his mercy or with his grace. Humility is the remedy for pride. Ask Jesus for the great gift of humility and he will lead you to peace in all things.

Am I greedy? Do I pay an inordinate amount of attention to having and getting “things”? Am I always comparing myself as better than, or not a good as others based on what they have, or don’t have? Am I caught up in a whirlwind of competition, always trying to have more and never being satisfied? These are the habits of greed. Generosity is the remedy for greed.

Am I caught up in the passions? Lust and gluttony and anger can be such insistent temptors. There is so much around us that seems to deny these as problems. But we are susceptible to being slaves to these things. Our current culture argues in a thousand ways, that sex, in all of its excesses and perversions, are “normal” human behavior and the source of “happiness”. And this in the face of all manner of evidence to the contrary. Self-control is the remedy here. Pray to Jesus for this gift.

Anger is an especially dangerous habit, especially when it shows itself in the vile words and actions of hatred in all of its forms. Do I speak of, or treat others out of this excess of anger, or out of a need for revenge? This kind of anger has been given license to be expressed on all of the social media venues, without respect, or regard for the God-given dignity of others. Am I a “slave” to this kind of behavior and feel the false satisfaction of self-righteousness in it? Patience is the remedy to learn here.

Am I a slave to any of these things, obeying them fervently? Or am I, rather, a slave to Christ, obedient to his every commandment? These are the habits of self-reflection that we need to be developing. And we need to lean into the love and mercy of Jesus as we do. In the words of the great Augustine, “Lord, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

Jesus, Give us the grace of courage to look at our behaviors honestly in light of your word. Strengthen us in our resolve to turn away from the slavery of sin and toward that slavery of righteousness that leads us toward you. We pray this in your name, dear Lord Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.