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How has your prayer life been lately? Have you...

  • Fallen asleep during your rosary?
  • Spent an entire holy hour thinking about school supplies?
  • Reread the first paragraph of your spiritual devotion numerous times?

At times like these we may ask ourselves what we are getting out of our feeble attempts at prayer. We may wonder if there is a net gain, focusing on the input/output ratio of our devotions, downgrading our prayer life to a series of business transactions. But there are a few reasons that comparison is invalid.

When one loves, one does not calculate."
St. Therese of Lisieux

It is not (just) about us.

When we are measuring the benefits of our prayer, we have to think bigger than ourselves. As children, much of our prayer tends toward self-benefiting petitions – for that toy in the commercial or to get dessert without eating vegetables. As we mature, we begin to look outward and expand our prayer to include those we love, those we hear about, and, eventually, the entire world!

As members of the Body of Christ, we join our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of every day to the cross for the benefit of the whole communion of saints. 

That chaotic family rosary could be the reason someone halfway across the globe chose not to commit a crime. The grace won by fighting constant distractions during that holy hour could be the nudge for a hardened sinner to visit the confessional. The choice to pull out the Bible for spiritual reading might have won the grace that propelled a soul from Purgatory to Heaven!

How often have I thought that I may owe all the graces I’ve received to the prayers of a person who begged them from God for me, and whom I shall know only in Heaven."
St. Therese of Lisieux

We are storing up treasure in Heaven. 

We may also think we are not getting anything out of prayer because we are still experiencing problems, waiting for our prayer answered (our way!), or falling into the same sins over and over.

But at the end of our lives, we will be shown how those problems, like Job's, were opportunities to grow in faith and trust in God. We will be shown how our prayers were answered in ways beyond our feeble, short-sighted hopes. And perhaps we will be shown how much deeper we would have fallen into sin had we not persevered in our prayers. 

As we've said before, it is not how we feel during prayer that wins grace, but the sincerity of our love for God that drives us to always strive to do our best and to get back up when we fall. There are saints who were allowed to feel utter disgust for all spiritual practices for a time, but they buckled up and persevered, knowing love is a choice. They knew better than to ditch God because they didn't feel they were benefiting from their efforts. They knew each time they chose love, they were making a valuable deposit into their heavenly treasury.

You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them."
St. Therese of Lisieux

God multiplies.

Let us not fall into the trap of thinking grace depends on us and our efforts. God asks us to be a participant, for sure. But as in the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, He receives our meager offerings and transforms them into a fountain of grace for the world. 

If one prays, from two grains, four kernels will grow."
St. John Bosco

Remember the poor widow from Mark's Gospel? Her seemingly small sacrifice, offered inconspicuosly, was used by Christ to teach generations of His followers. Can you imagine her surprise when it was revealed to her in the afterlife? 

So, when we start to doubt the efficacy of our prayers and devotions, let us perservere, looking forward to our own Big Reveal when God shows us all the good that He brought out of those little acts of love.

Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history.”
Pope Saint John Paul II