I've heard the parable of the prodigal son so many times that I can recite some of it by heart. Recently however, that familiar story so often related to the sacrament of confession, took on new meaning for me - especially with my prayer life.
Having a steady, scheduled prayer life is something I've always struggled with (and confessed frequently for a lack of one). Undisciplined, I'd pray when I felt the call, was in the mood, needed help (or knew someone who did) or could fit it in. Like the prodigal son, I'd pray with a contrite and humble heart always begging for forgiveness and help with a firm resolve to do better. I knew that random bursts of conversation with God were not enough (for Him or me). The justifications for this "willy nilly when I feel like it" prayer life were many and are quite frankly, embarrassing to admit to here.
I'd watch the devoted daily Massers reading their books and the ladies ripping through their rosaries and presume their hearts just weren't into it. That type of unenthusiastic "check your box get it done" prayer was not for me. Like the stay-at-home son, I admired their tenacity in prayer, but it just didn't look sincere. Jesus tells us that he's come to set our hearts on fire and the thought of a regular, disciplined prayer life just seemed so boring, and with seven kids...hard.
It occurred to me recently that the father has two sons and loves them both deeply. These sons, these two types of prayer - one steadfast, the other prompted by the spirit - could actually be the very combination I need, the prayer God wants. He doesn't just want Martha (faithful servant) or Mary (waiting at his feet), he wants them - both. This juxtaposition of duty and docility seems to be the ideal for which to strive - without the need to disparage either *ahem*.
I get up.
Before the kids do.
Because prodigal prayer is only one son - only half of it.
The committed, scheduled, predictable prayer - is the other son I sure have been missing out on.