[Part of this article was originally published in February 2009.]
I’m not sure why my thoughts strayed to piano teaching the other morning when I was praying. (Why do my thoughts ever stray at that time? A perennial question. Sigh.) I recalled my conversation with Angela about the “hard parts” needing more practice than the “easy parts.”
“Think about it, honey,” I said.
“If some measures are really easy for you, and some give you lots of trouble, how does it help to just start at the beginning and play the piece straight through? You’d always be playing the easy parts just as much as you do the hard ones.”
So I recalled this conversation this morning during prayer, and it occurred to me that this must be true of practice in general, and therefore of practicing the spiritual disciplines, too. I have the same challenge facing me which faces my piano students: I have to identify the parts which give me the most problem, so that I can focus more energy on fixing those parts.
So–what are the hard things for me in the Christian walk? Is it the “praying without ceasing” command? The love of God with all that I am and have? The love of others as myself? Is it tithing or fasting or reading or meditating? It’s a good solid question, which deserves prayer and seeking an answer from God. Then when the problem is identified, I can further pray about my plan for improving in that area.
Lent, like New Year, is a good and obvious time for doing this kind of ‘examen‘ –although St. Ignatius intended it to be a daily discipline. One has to start somewhere, after all! Perhaps that in itself is the hard part for someone: being intentional enough to actually inquire into one’s spiritual health. If so, then why not see this little post as an invitation?
You are hereby invited to pursue something as simple as a daily prayer:
“Lord, what would You have me do differently today?”
You could tape it to the bathroom mirror. Or the refrigerator. Or the front door. Or the steering wheel. Lent can be an invitation to practical spirituality.
For me…well, maybe I should start with keeping my thoughts from straying during prayer.