For the first time since Winter took hold I look out in the growing light and see robins, with their bright orange chests, bouncing around the ground. A raven flies low through the neighborhood, landing on a dirt driveway, and pecks for some morsels. Jays screech, faint clouds block the sun’s bright glow.

I wake and pray, feeling again strongly not just the need for such, also the demand. It is the turn of the path for me, one which I must embrace, finally. Prayer is something which has marked my own relationship with God. There have been times, to be sure, I doubted its efficacy. There have been times in which the depths of my soul cried out with all my being, forcing me to field or forest to find relief through holy outburst. Most of the time, however, I walk with a belief in prayer and a continual battle to continue its practice. I pray for those who I say I will pray for, taking those words seriously, only I do not sustain my prayers, nor do I often enter into the rhythm of conversation which marks the truly advanced.

A weight descends, one which brings distraction and frustration, wondering if I speak empty words to a deaf god. Part of me knows I speak effective words, surprising if there is not an answer, the other part highlights my own present confusion. God’s heavy hand guides and protects, it also limits and suspends. So I feel the weight, and wish to not dwell in places of mystery nor enter anymore into realms which have not yet presented answers.

The modern church speaks much of prayer, and does little of it. I, a product of my generation, wish to also pursue the doing rather than the being, trusting practically more in my own abilities to act and produce than in the quiet, sustained trust in the Three-in-One. Prayer becomes a marker, a signpost that the surrounding tasks shall have an air of holiness, a task which has more of the symbolic than real conversation.

This fact is why, I think, that prayer is sought in schools, that the ten commandments are placed in courtrooms, and other religious symbols are foisted upon believers and nonbelievers. They are symbols of the divine, decorations of the religious, marking a territory for the Christian much as a dog urinates on a tree or hydrant to establish his ownership.

Those who dwell most deeply in the realms of Light, however, have no interest in the disciplines as symbols. Fasting is hidden, prayer is focused, Scripture is withheld from swine. There is no need to mark territory for the truly spiritual, for all is known to be of God and nothing must be proved. They are sought and pursued because they are efficacious in resolving confusion and forging paths.

We do not do, instead proclaiming to the world that which we want to do, that which we are called to do, feeling some measure of satisfaction in highlighting that others do these even worse than we do. Our delight becomes not in the full pursuit of God, rather it has an anemic joy in comparison, in highlighting the lack of others. So we bounce around talking of prayer, focusing on evangelism, eager to do those things which make us feel good and right, even if we do not have a great deal to show for it.

The true Christian way has an air of ruthless practicality to it, which by nature despises show and anathematizes a religious circus. We do what expands, and discard quickly what merely sustains our own vain sense. In prayer alone can we realign ourselves before God, and thus walk the direct, practical path which is our calling.

The sun, right now, has emerged above the line of trees to the east, and shines full upon my face, warming and delighting my flesh and spirit. Hidden during the winter months, it emerges now in Spring, bringing bright light to where there was only dull glow. It makes me smile. I don’t know why.

Prayer which has been lost as the hallmark of the Church has become nothing more than a shibboleth for many. Which is why suggestions that prayer be a daily gathered task is not just met with doubt, but confused looks which betray an understanding that many other things are better uses of time. Meetings, reading, coffee, administrative tasks, tasks of all kinds are excuses to keep from praying. Yet it is prayer which defined the earliest communities.

And so I learn again, having known in my heart and mind, having fought this battle for many years, that prayer is not just a part of the Christian life. There is nothing else. Outside of prayer all is waste. Only with prayer does what we do become sanctified. Patrick, the saint, is the great reminder of this. He who prayed ‘a hundred times a day, and almost as much at night’ went to Ireland and converted a nation, from paganism to Truth, not by war but by revealing the Power of the Gospel. One man, through prayer, did what hundreds cannot do simply through their own passion and desires.

There is nothing more important to the Christian life than prayer. There is no other way under heaven which marks the truly spiritual, and separates the Holy from the carnal. We have become a carnally minded Church, our eyes solely on the palpable. To be fully the Church, however, is to be a people who pray, who pray continually.

I awoke today with a charge to pray, a delight to pray, and facing myself east, on my knees, I did pray. Trusting in the one who hears, and asking for the perseverance to continue and grow. There is no other way. Prayer to the Three-in-One is the Way.