Let’s talk about prayer. Let’s talk about how January is a wonderful time to start or restart a habit of daily prayer.
But first, let’s talk about winter.
I’m not a big fan of this time of year. There are plenty of unpleasant things about the winter months where I live: The way the coldness makes you cold, the way the darkness is so dark, and the way the dark and the cold make you kind of stupid.
But the thing that really hurts is how all the green goes away. You look outside, and everything is gray and white and brown, and it’s just sad. I need green! This is why, of course, people have houseplants. Nothing livens up a living space like living things. It’s the obvious solution to my green starvation, right?
Not so fast. I’m an absolute plant assassin. I love having plants around, but I’m terrible at keeping them alive. If plants were people, I’d be on an FBI watch list for the sheer number of suspicious disappearances associated with me.
Take, for example, my little fig tree. I had put it outside on the patio over the summer, but then a frost came and I forgot to bring it in. The poor thing turned brown, all the leaves fell off, and it went from a luxurious, broad-leafed beauty to a dry stick in a pot. I was so sad.
But I’m telling you about it because I realized that I’ve actually learned a thing or two in the last several years — and what I’ve learned dovetails very nicely with what I’ve learned about prayer. Just as I suffer when there is no green outside, so too do I suffer when I don’t have a naturally flourishing relationship with God; and just as the solution to green starvation is having houseplants, the solution to spiritual starvation is prayer.
And if this metaphor doesn’t quite work out perfectly, just assume it’s because it’s dark and cold and I’m stupid. Not my fault!
I am the queen of letting plants dry out in between waterings. Then, when I finally do remember to do it, the soil has become so parched that the water goes straight through it and runs out the bottom. Depending on the plant, you can fix this by either flooding it with water from the top down, or putting it in a second pot of water and letting it absorb it from the roots, or you can give it little sips of water very frequently until it softens up and is ready to accept more.
But the point is: There are consequences to letting it get that dry. If you neglect it for long enough, you can’t expect to just leap back in and pick up where you left off. The same is true with prayer. If you’ve been out of touch for a long time, you might be able to reestablish contact by flooding God with your passionate prayers; or maybe you need to sit and quietly meditate for a long time; or maybe you need to start small with short, frequent prayers until your soul softens up and feels ready for more. But there will be a period of adjustment…Read the rest of my latest monthly column for Our Sunday Visitor