Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a five-part series by Msgr. Jim Costigan on The Pillars of Parish Stewardship.
In the fourth installment in my series on The Pillars of Parish Stewardship — the 2004 document published by the stewardship office of the Diocese of Wichita — we take an in-depth look at the third pillar: prayer.
Along with the Four Pillars of Stewardship, we also make constant reference to the three Ts of stewardship, recognizing that to truly live as a stewardship people we must give God the first fruits of our Time, our Talent, and our Treasure. It is easy for us to see the concrete reality of the latter two. To give God our Talents, we must first recognize with what talents He has blessed us, and then use those talents for His greater glory. On the same token, our money is something concrete, and when we recognize it as a gift from God, we are to give a certain amount back to Him. For many of us, it is easy to understand what it means to give God our talent and our treasure. But what does it mean to give God a portion of our time? This idea is much harder to grasp, and, yet, giving to God the first fruits of our time is just as important as the other two. In fact, if we understand and implement it properly, our stewardship of time will serve as the very foundation from which our stewardship of talent and stewardship of treasure bear fruit.
When we talk about stewardship of time, we are referring to prayer time. Prayer is of the utmost importance in the life of a disciple. Does this mean that in order to be true disciples we should say the Our Father three times a day or pray a daily Rosary? Not particularly. We must not discount the merit of praying such prayers. The Church in her wondrous wisdom has given us certain prayers to help guide our prayer lives. However, a deep life of prayer that is vital for every disciple involves even more.
St. John Chrysostom explains, “You should not think of prayer as being a matter of words. It is a desire for God, an indescribable devotion … the gift of God’s grace.” In other words, if we look at prayer as a mere regimen that we must follow everyday, then we do not see to the heart of it. The reality is that prayer will take on different forms for every one of us. One person may have a deep devotion to the Rosary, and in praying it, he is closely united to the Lord, while another person feels deeply connected to Him through constant conversation—in the car on the way to work, before bed at night, or at other hours throughout the day. Meanwhile, for another person, a daily or weekly hour of silence before the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration is the best place for him to offer the Lord his heart. No matter how, exactly, we choose to pray, we must get to the root of it all. To truly give God our time, it must be a gift of ourselves. It must come from the heart and not take the form of mere word repetition. If we offer an Our Father without meditating on the words, it can become simple recitation.
The point of prayer is to get to know the Lord. If we are committed to living as His disciples, we must be on personal terms with Him. The first disciples didn’t know what it meant to pray the Rosary, and until the Lord taught them the Our Father, they couldn’t pray that either. But they were definitely true stewards of their time. They walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, ate meals with Him, and so on. In effect, He was their best friend, and the more they got to know Him, the more they longed to serve Him.
The same holds true for us today. We can walk with Him, talk with Him, and sit with Him just as they did. And He wants us to. In the mind of St. John Chrysostom, there is nothing more worthwhile. “For prayer unites us to God as His companions.” How can we serve Him if we don’t know Him? Before we can truly be a servant people, we must talk to Him who we wish to serve. Get to know Him, and then, most assuredly we will fall in love with Him, and, undoubtedly, then we will desire nothing more than to serve Him.
Recognize Jesus as your best friend and spend time with Him as such. He who is the Lord, the Creator of the Universe, without whom we would cease to exist, is also our Father, our Brother, and our Friend. Bring Him your cares and concerns, your excitement, your worry, your fears, and your frustrations, and allow Him to comfort you. He is there, and He wants to speak with you.