Whenever I hear the gospel story about Martha and Mary, I cannot help but feel sorry for Martha. It seems like Jesus is being unfair to her. If I was in Martha’s shoes, running around working while Mary just sat around, I would probably complain to Jesus. I would also be upset that Jesus didn't tell Mary to get up and help. We must realize that there is more going on here than meets this eye. This gospel does not downplay the importance of work or service. This gospel should, however, serve as a powerful reminder about the importance of taking the time to pray. It is critical that we regularly imitate Mary by putting aside our duties and take the time to consciously spend time with Jesus. Such a reminder is important as we find ourselves so busy with work, family and social commitments.
Deep down we all harbor the suspicion that prayer is not the best use of our time. Of course we would never say this out loud; in theory we all agree we should take time to pray. But our actions suggest otherwise. How often do we justify not praying by telling ourselves that we are too busy today? I once read an interview with Bill Gates that struck this point home. As most of you know, Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft and is now well known for his charity work. Though I do not agree with all the causes Bill Gates supports, his generosity and drive in helping the poor is admirable. In the interview he was asked: “Mr. Gates, are you a religious person?” His response: “for me, I find that there are more productive ways that I can use my Sunday morning than being in Church”. I do not know whether Bill Gates still thinks like this, I mention it because I think that he said out loud what we often think. Often we think that there are better ways to use our time than spending it is prayer and religious pursuits.
The truth is that prayer makes us better people. When we pray we give God the opportunity to transform us. I firmly believe that prayer makes me a better human being. When I do not pray enough I find that I am less patient and not as kind. When I do not pray enough I lose sight of what is truly important in life and become bogged down in work and duties. I become like Martha: distracted by many things. It is as though each of us is like an electric car which has batteries that power the engine. For a while the car runs great, but after some time you need to plug the car in otherwise the batteries get drained, the car loses power and will eventually stop. As Christians our “batteries” hold the grace of God, His strength and life, rather than an electric charge. If we do not take the time to re-charge we will stop working properly, we cannot live like Jesus intends. When we pray we “plug into” Jesus, the source of all goodness, love and kindness. In prayer we become like Mary in the gospel, we sit at Jesus’ feet and He charges us with His grace. Plugging in an electric car to recharge it is not optional. Likewise for us Christians, taking the time to pray is not optional. When we pray we give God the opportunity to change us for the better.
In order for God to transform our lives through prayer we need to pray regularly each day. Just as regular practice is crucial to becoming a good musician, praying regularly is fundamental to becoming a good Christian. There was this great pianist called Ignacy Jan Paderewski. When asked about the important of practice he said the following: “If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it.” If we pray regularly, we should experience the same thing. If you miss praying one day, you will notice the difference, you may be less patient for example. If you miss two days, those closest to you, your family, will notice a difference. If you miss three days everyone else will notice a difference. Sometimes we are inspired to make a grand plan to pray for a long time each day, but what usually happens is that after two days we stop. It is much better to choose a realistic amount of time to pray, and a certain time that you can be sure to pray each day and stick to it. For example, perhaps you just have time for five minutes of personal prayer each day that you can do first thing in the morning. The important thing is that you are faithful to this time and do it every day. This regularity in prayer is a great sign of love to God and will also allow Him to change you.
In the end, the more generous we are with God in our prayer life, the more He will be able to transform us. God can only transform us to the extent that we give ourselves to Him in prayer. Generosity in prayer is about more than just spending time in prayer, but also about how open we are with Jesus. For example, the more honest that we are with Jesus in prayer about our problems, the more He can help us with them. There is story that illustrates this principle. In India there was a beggar sitting by the side of the road. Every so often a traveller would pass by and place a little rice in the bowl the beggar was holding. One day the beggar heard the king approaching with his entourage. This was the moment the beggar was waiting for. Surely the king would give him plenty of rice! The king did indeed stop before the beggar. But when he bent over towards him, this great king said something unexpected. The king said to the beggar, “give me some of your rice”. The beggar was taken aback! He reached into his bowl and gave the king one grain of rice. The great king calmly replied “is that all”? Furious, the beggar took out a second grain from his bowl and tossed it at the king. With this the king gathered up his entourage and was off. The beggar, filled with rage, greedily fingered the remaining rice grains in his bowl. It was then that he noticed that one grain felt different to the touch. When he brought it out of the bowl he noticed that it was a grain of pure gold! The beggar quickly checked the rest of his bowl. To his delight he found a second grain of gold. He had one grain of gold for each grain of rice he gave the king. As the king walked away, the beggar couldn't help thinking “why on earth did I not give the king everything?!” We should ask ourselves the same question. Why do we not give our King, Jesus Christ, everything? The more generous we are with God in prayer, the more God can transform us.
Though we are busy, if we are honest with ourselves and examine how much time we spend daily on television or social media I think we must conclude that we do have time to pray more. Today let us commit to praying more regularly. If you do not yet have a daily time of personal prayer, commit to pray 5 minutes each day at some time that works for you. If you are already do this, commit to praying 5 minutes more. Let us be generous with God. Pray regularly and allow yourself to be transformed by God. You will be doing yourself and everyone around you a favor.