Last night as I was wedged in like a sardine on Interstate 94, I noticed the license plate in front of me was my brother-in-law’s initials, CPW. So, I thought, “I should say a little prayer for him,” and I did. Then, suddenly I was checking everyone’s license plate to see who I could pray for next. Turns out, I prayed for my cousin Jenny too, JMS, and I think I even prayed for a lawyer… the license plate was ISUE4U. (He probably needed the prayers most!) What I thought was a losing situation — a 45 minute commute to drive 12 miles— instantly became a win-win-win situation. I was distracted from the angst of the daily traffic rut, I was praying for others and I was communing on my commute with my Creator.
My life is full of deadlines, meetings, driving and dishes, and though I spend much of my time sharing with others the importance of praying, the truth is that often my prayer time gets interrupted or shortened; yet, in some weird way, I recognized a new road to travel amid the rush hour congestion. Not only did a nutty noticing of initials bring me into prayer, it made me think of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and instead of being discouraged when I’m stuck in a place I don’t want to be or when my prayer time gets cut into, I found solace in having the opportunity to heed St. Paul’s words to the people of Ephesus: “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph 6:18). Yep, in the middle of Minneapolis in the year 2013, I took comfort in words to the Ephesians in the first century… and prayed in the Spirit at the one time I wanted to be complaining in the flesh.
St. Paul’s words to pray at all times in the Spirit come on the heels of him encouraging the Ephesians to remain strong in the battle and to put on the whole armor of God. He is telling them, and us, that we are in a spiritual battle, a battle that will require some serious armor.
We know that we have many ways to draw power from the Lord so we can stand firm in our faith on the battle field. We know as Christians we have truth, righteousness, peace and faith. We know as Catholics we have the Mass, the Blessed Mother, the Communion of Saints, the sacraments, the Eucharist! But in the middle of rush hour traffic, I realized we are blessed not only in being able to don this supernatural armor to protect and defend ourselves, but we also are equipped with armor that takes us on the offense, we have the sword of the Spirit— the Word of God (the Gospel) and we have the power of prayer.
All of this armor gives us the tools to turn any obstacle, spiritual or physical, into an opportunity and eventually, a triumph. The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is something that in my life has required a lot of “instruction” and “practice”. I look to the Magisterium, good Catholic scripture scholars and solid Catholic bible studies as my “fencing” coaches and to Lectio Divina, praying the Rosary and my daily Magnificat readings as my practice time. The combination of good direction and spending time with the word of God has led me to want to proclaim the Gospel everywhere, and it appears it has led me to yearn to pray at “all times in the Spirit” — even in rush hour traffic.
So here’s a little Monday Morning Traffic Takeaway:
Today make an effort to turn obstacles into opportunities. Look for opportunities to pray for another, whether you see their picture, you think of them out of the blue or you notice their initials on the car ahead of you as you slowly make your way to your destination on this journey.
Today look for ways to “pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication,” even if it means praying for the person who cuts you off in traffic or perhaps begging forgiveness for the words that have escaped you in the past in that same situation. And take comfort knowing you are donning the whole armor of God!
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