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“But first let me…”: The January Virtue of Prayer First

“In order to succeed in prayer, it should be done when we first awaken, when our whole being is calm and recollected. We need to make our meditation before anything else.” – Bl. Peter Julian Eymard

January is a month for resetting priorities. If you’re like me, you’ve eaten too much over the holidays, and might be thinking it’s time to cut back on the big meals and baked treats. If your schedule was like mine, your fitness routine, whose regularity was already suffering during the busyness of December, was altogether hijacked by a hectic Christmas schedule, and perhaps you’ve resolved to get back to a more consistent exercise regime. If your house is like mine, it’s been overwhelmed with Christmas décor, occupied by guests, and besieged by an excess of new toys and clothes and gifts, and is in urgent need of a tidy and reorganization. And if your morning prayer life is like mine, it may even have gathered momentum over Advent, but now – after the busyness of a season of late parties, sleeping in, and overnight guests – needs to be picked up, dusted off and resumed with the freshness that comes with a brand new year.

And so, I resolve to rise early before the rest of house awakens, before the needs of the family and the tasks on my to-do list propel me forward throughout my day. I’ll make my coffee, take my seat, open my Bible, and begin.

But first, let me check my e-mail.

And while I’m at it (postponing my prayer just a little bit longer), I might also check the weather for the day. I see it will be cold, and consult my calendar to see how much taxiing of children I’ll have to do that night, or whether I might be able to get away with a cozy evening inside. While I’m thus distracted, I might check my Facebook, read an article, respond to a text until, interruptions and amusements exhausted, I am finally ready to pray.

My initial intonation – “But first let me…” must sound lamentably familiar to Jesus, as he patiently waits to spend time with me in prayer. St. Luke tells us about two similar would-be disciples who, invited by Jesus to follow Him, postponed their “yes”, replying, just like me: “But first let me…” (Lk 9: 59-61). Jesus carried on to Jerusalem, presumably without them.

The month of January, with its new beginnings and fresh start, begs for us to embrace and commit to the virtue of Prayer First.

St. John Vianney was a strong advocate of the virtue of prayer before all else. “We must take great care never to do anything before having said our morning prayers,” he says, warning us, rather persuasively, that “the devil once declared that if he could have the first moment of the day, he was sure of all the rest.” “Never forget,” he continues, “that it is at the beginning of each day that God has the necessary grace for the day ready for us. He knows exactly what opportunities we shall have to sin, and will give us everything we need if we ask him then. That is why the devil does all he can to prevent us from saying our morning prayers or to say them badly.”

Say no more, John Vianney. Now is the perfect time to commit, not just to a life of prayer, but to a life where prayer comes first.

Monthly Virtue Resolution: Give God the very first moment of your day.

Monthly Motto: “But first, let me pray.”

Written by
Holly Gustafson

Holly lives with her husband, James, and their five children in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. She received her Masters in Linguistics at the University of Manitoba and now pursues her love of language through art, writing, public speaking, and unsolicited grammatical advice. Her favorite show is always the one she’s currently watching, and her favorite saint is always the one she’s currently reading. The best advice she ever received was from her spiritual friend, St. Faustina, who told her that when in doubt, “Always ask Love. It advises best.”

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Written by Holly Gustafson