The secret to success: prayer at the start of the day
October 22, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Have you ever had the experience of a day that just never seems to get on track? Where lots of stuff piles up and you can’t deal with it? Where there is an underlying sense of frustration, lack of focus, discontentment with everyone and everything?
Yes. We’ve all been there.
I am not claiming that this is the sole explanation or the best one to fit every person’s situation, but at least speaking for myself, I have found that any day that does not begin with a time of quiet prayer almost always “goes bad” in this way. Conversely, when I get up early enough to take sufficient time for Scripture and part of the Divine Office, the rest of the day may well turn out to be very difficult, but it is never “off the rails” and “impossible.”
St. Thomas Aquinas is fond of the axiom: “What is last in execution is first in intention.” Or as the ancients put it still more succinctly: respice finem, “look to the end.” The axiom is telling us that whatever we ultimately want to achieve has to be the first thing we think about and intend, so that the power of that intention carries us through the sometimes huge number of intermediate steps between where we are right now and where we hope to arrive.
In our human life as a whole, the ultimate end is the face-to-face vision of God in heaven, in the company of the angels and saints. And reaching this end will mean ordering, harmonizing, and integrating countless intermediate steps from this moment until we breathe our last. In order to do this, we need not only the grace of God (which is the primary requirement!), but also our conscious intending of that end on a regular basis, so that our daily actions can be coherent and purposeful. Put simply: if we are looking for “meaning in the mess,” we will find it only by seeing everything sub specie aeternitatis, in the light of eternity, of our final goal.
This, then, is what starting the day with prayer accomplishes: it effectively pre-loads “order to the end” into whatever is going to happen that day; it does so in the presence of God, who is in charge of everything; and it asks for His grace to keep connecting the neverending flood of events, including the sufferings it will bring, with the unchanging source of life.
God, our ultimate end, is reached through prayer, in which, by His grace, we enter more deeply into the mystery of self-giving love that He pours into us in baptism and all the sacraments. Without prayer, we might (for a time, at any rate) “have” this union with the Most Holy Trinity objectively, but it would not be the place where we dwell, the atmosphere our thoughts and desires breathe. When we enter consciously into this union, we draw from God, for whom nothing is impossible, the strength to do all the work he asks of us in any day.
I find enormous comfort and purpose in quietly reading the words of Sacred Scripture each morning, as I slowly go through the book verse by verse over the months, asking the Lord to teach me what He wants me to hear, and how I may serve Him, love Him, suffer for Him, better than before, more than before. I find great comfort and purpose in praying the office of Prime and in assisting, whenever possible, at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the traditional rite. These rock-solid realities are like the “everlasting hills” of which the Bible speaks: permanent, stable, solid, something that man has no control over. “Thou enlightenest wonderfully from the everlasting hills” (Ps 75:5).
It is not always possible to do many things, but we must try to do the “one thing needful,” namely, sitting at Our Lord’s feet and soaking in His words, His presence, at the start of each and every day.