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Being a disciple takes discipline in prayer

First slide

As the ranger instructor barked the command, we squatted and yelled in unison, “Need more … !” Another gruff command signaled we could stand and respond, “Discipline!” After several more repetitions of these awful Y-squats in Army Ranger School, I began to smile.

Before Ranger School I lived the motto “comfort is king,” which prevented me from choosing the things of God because I was too focused on myself. But in the midst of these squats, a new rhythm infiltrated my chant, that of prayer. I recognized the tipping point that comes when we choose to do something hard for a greater purpose — especially for our good Lord — which requires discipline.

The word discipline is related to disciple, and one requires the other. It is discipline that enables us to train our bodies, for example as soldiers; more importantly, it is discipline that enables us to train our spirits so they can overcome the body, so we can become followers of Christ, choosing to do what God asks of us.

One of the highlights of seminary for me thus far is the habit of mental prayer, which has required discipline of mind and body. Many spiritual writers attest that a great deal of sainthood (even half of it) comes from committing to the practice of mental prayer for at least 30 minutes a day, rain or shine.

Mental prayer is where we open our minds and hearts to God so he can speak to us and form us as disciples — and he is demanding. We may need to get up a little earlier to make sure it happens. We need to push aside the distractions and temptations that beckon us elsewhere instead of being in his presence and listening to him. We do our best to focus on his word or some other spiritual text, and let Christ approach us through it. We open ourselves to be vulnerable, to let our affections be stoked for God as we bask in his love for us. Finally, we respond to the ways he asks us to grow closer to him and more like him.

And then we try it all over again the next day.

Is it easy? No, but no mission worth doing ever is (and I have to say, the rewards are certainly greater than anything I experienced in Ranger School). It is in that hope that I am going to keep on praying — and I invite you, dear reader, to join me.

Goins, who is from St. Joseph Church in Herndon, just completed his first year of pre-theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020