Prayer & Procrastination

June 23, 1996
Brother John Raymond

	I don't mean to talk about school during the summer but we can
 learn something from considering it. Students at all levels of study
 are familiar with procrastination. A term paper is assigned on
 January 12 and is due on May 30. The student begins the assignment
 on May 29 and does an all-nighter with the aid of twenty cups of
 coffee to get the paper in on time. But procrastinating is not
 reserved only to students. I would guess that we all have at one
 time or another put something off until the last minute. This type
 of last minute preparation leads to useless anxiety, nervousness,
 stress, poor quality work, mistakes, etc.
	What has procrastination have to do with prayer? I think it has a
 lot to do with it. Given our fallen and weak human nature, we all
 too easily put off prayer until an emergency, sickness or death. I
 suppose if some people knew the exact date and time of our death we
 might put God off until the last minute. How many Catholics shun
 conversion, prayer and the sacraments presumptuously saying, "I'll
 call a priest when I'm dying." This reminds me of a policeman whose
 partner was shot. His dying words were, "Oh God, not now." A friend
 of mine's father who was a lawyer died in the courtroom arguing a
 case. We do not know the day nor the hour when Jesus will come.
 Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, devoted a whole
 sermon to the theme "watch and pray." He tells us that the Lord
 teaches we must keep watch at every moment, since we do not know
 when He will come. "Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when
 He comes, shall find watching." (PL 15, col. 1721; Lk. 12,37)
	We must always remain watchful in prayer. "In prayer
 the disciple keeps watch, attentive to Him Who Is and Him Who Comes,
 in memory of His first coming in the lowliness of the flesh, and in
 hope of His second coming in glory." (Catechism #2612, Cf. Mk 13;Lk
 21:34-36) Prayer keeps us attentive to God's abiding presence with
 us. It keeps the memory of Jesus alive in our lives so that they
 bear fruit in Him. It seems that in St. Paul's earlier epistles, he,
 along with the early Christians were preoccupied with Our Lord's
 Second Coming. They believed it to be imminent and lived
 accordingly. Some, though, fell away when His Coming seemed to be
 delayed. Regardless of whether we live to see the day of the Lord's
 Second Coming, we should live our lives in the knowledge of it. This
 should have some effect on our prayer life. We should even hope and
 prayerfully discern the signs of the times for it.
	Watchfulness in prayer has another aspect. In communion with
 Jesus our "prayer is a battle; only by keeping watch in prayer can
 one avoid falling into temptation." (#2612, Cf. Lk 22:40,46) Saint
 Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church, warned his flock that
 "Christians must remain ever watchful, so that they fall not into
 the snares of the devil and become entangled in errors they have
 renounced." (Sermon 7: PL, 54, col. 216) Again Saint Ambrose in his
 sermon on watching and praying tells us, "So if you desire that the
 power of God shall encompass you and provide for you, you must ever
 keep watch, for many are the snares that lie in wait for the
 just...if the soul begins to sleep, the power of its virtue is
	Whatever method or effort it takes, we need to be aware of
 Jesus' presence with us throughout the day. Then we will be able to
 resist the flesh, the devil and the world. Further, we won't be
 surprised by Our Lord's coming__after all, He was always at our