Prayer & Devotionals
Q: When I pray, does God understand when I get distracted?
A: As the saying goes, “God knows us better than we know ourselves.” It seems to me that God does understand when we get distracted at prayer, but he does not encourage distraction. Prayer is conversation with God, so you and I do not want to inform God that we do not want to hear him, of course. We do, however, know that our minds can wander from time to time. Yes, this even happens to bishops. I am not proud to say that, but it shows that we need to work harder at listening to God.
Prayer is work. We must be able to clear our minds of worldly concerns, so that we may hear from the One who created this world in which we live. We are fortunate to have so many forms of prayer, such as reading, speaking, meditating, or even contemplating (trying to keep very still and quiet—probably the most difficult form of prayer). In the material world, much information which we need is given to us almost instantaneously by way of electronic media. God has all the information we need but he also wants us to be present to him, not just coming to him when we need favors.
Prayer is relationship. God wants to draw us closer to him. The closer we are to him, the better we can hear him. You and I can do our part by trying to put all distractions away while we pray. Those concerns will still be there when our prayer is completed.
Thank you for asking this question, for it does not seem like anyone is immune to distraction while at prayer. We just have to look more intensely at our Lord Jesus, whose Birth at Bethlehem over 20 centuries ago was God’s announcement that he loves us more than we can imagine.
Q: Is it a sin not to pray every day?
A: God created each one of us in his image and likeness. However, this does not mean that we know everything God knows, or if what we are doing is actually right all of the time. Think about it: In the previous question we take note that all of us are capable of doing exactly what God does not want us to do. We sin. Sin is a “deliberate thought, word, deed or omission contrary to the law of God.”
It seems to me we each need to ask the question why we may not pray every day. Have we relegated our relationship with God to a secondary status to our own will and desire? Is it our intention to avoid God? Or, have we fallen into a bad habit of avoiding God?
Not praying to God may be the result or consequence of us sinning. Maybe we have done something wrong and we think that God will not listen to us because we crossed him? Perhaps us not in prayer each day is our way of telling God that we do not need him? These are just questions, of course, but they are worth asking. Moreover, I, as a member of the clergy, have made a promise to pray every day and for me to break that promise is a sin.
I do not pray every day in order to avoid sin. I pray in order to give God the glory he deserves from me and to further elevate myself to his enduring love. It is through prayer where so much coalesces into Jesus Christ’s will for me and the work I must do as your shepherd.
Q: Do scapulars actually keep you from hell?
A: From what I have read, scapulars began with the Benedictine Order and were eventually adopted by other religious communities. Even now we have men and women who are not members of professed or consecrated communities wearing scapulars as well.
The scapular is a symbol for you and me “putting on Jesus Christ.” Another way of putting it is that we wear the “yoke” of Christ. We are reminded to become more like Jesus in our everyday lives and to keep him ever close to us.
While your question focused on the avoidance of hell, what seems best would be that scapulars point us toward heaven. Scapulars direct us toward the good things that Jesus has given us.
For those who like to know the origins of words, the word “scapular” comes from the Latin “scapularium” or shoulder cloak. How blessed we are with the opportunity to physically put on a small garment reminding us that you and I have in our baptism put on Christ.