Glaciers have been known to very slowly carve valleys in between mountains.
A steady, but tiny drop is capable of burrowing through solid rock and create underground caverns, given enough time.
Last year, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Grand Canyon National Park. As anyone knows who has been there, pictures can’t even begin to display its vastness. At the park, an exhibit was set up that shows the entire canyon was formed by the Colorado River at the bottom. That comparatively little river was once much higher, but as time passes, it continues to work itself down deeper into the rock.
Water, easily moved, easily contained, with enough time can tear through the largest defenses.
It’s not very entertaining though. We don’t hold glacier carving parties or even invite the neighbors to watch the every day miracle of grass growing. Instead, we like fireworks and other similar things that burst into flame and quickly die.
I try to keep this in mind with prayer. It is easy to become frustrated and feel like our prayers don’t amount to anything. I read about great saints whose prayers caused all sorts of instantaneous and verifiable miracles, and my mind thinks, “Why can’t I see that with my prayers?”
Discouragement is a powerful foe, and so is doubt. And our culture doesn’t help too much either. For example, atheists have a saying, “Two hands working are better than a thousand clasped in prayer.” In other words: prayer doesn’t work, quit wasting your time.
I firmly believe that we are in the midst of a spiritual war and that our enemy wants nothing more than to stop us from praying. Even reading the Bible is more tolerable to him than prayer because interpretations of the Bible are only limited by man’s imagination — and therefore scripture can be twisted to say just about anything.
But honest, selfless prayer can awaken a dead soul, it can overcome passions, it can heal physical and spiritual blindness, it can re-establish the connection with God, it can fill us with love, it can dispel depression and darkness, it can instill hope within us, and it can save those around us. It just doesn’t seem to happen in our preferred time frame.
In nature, most of the things that grow quickly have short life spans. Slower growth seems to be a sign of stability and longevity.
In our spiritual lives, it is much the same. Retreats, seminars, and emotionally charged sermons don’t normally help us much more than a couple days to a few weeks. Instead, true growth and maturity come about due to steadfastness and faithful commitments. In other words, we must engender a new way of life, which requires discipline.
Here, results are often not easily measured; no more than if you were to stand on the bank of the Colorado River would you see it channel deeper into the Grand Canyon. It is a difficult task in our quick-paced consumerist society to patiently await the slow, but deep work of prayer.
Even the great saint, Abba Agathon said,
‘Forgive me, but I think there is no labour greater than that of prayer to God. For every time a man wants to pray, his enemies, the demons, want to prevent him, for they know that it is only by turning him from prayer that they can hinder his journey. Whatever good work a man undertakes, if he perseveres in it, he will attain rest. But prayer is warfare to the last breath.’
I have seen the results of persistent prayer in my life and the life of others. And if I had to guess, most of the saints probably became what they were by learning to be steadfast in prayer. If you want to learn more, check out the links below, or better yet, reach out to your spiritual father.