Dr. Sri introduces the concept of the Primacy of the Interior Life and how it should be one of the most important aspects of our daily lives. He shares some examples and insights on how we can incorporate this important time for God in our day.
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Reflective Study Guide Questions
“Pray without ceasing.’”1 Thes. 5:17
- We might at times tend to think of prayer in terms of what we can get out of it. But prayer is actually important because we owe God our worship. How often do you think of prayer as something that you owe to God? How might thinking of it in this light change the way you view prayer?
- All that we do flows from our interior life. The good that we try to accomplish will be more or less successful depending on how devoted we are to developing our interior life. What works in your life would benefit most from a strong interior life?
- The Missionaries of Charity pray each day that they might radiate Christ to everyone they meet. Who in your life will be most affected by your faithfulness to prayer and the interior life?
- Many people feel overwhelmed by their lives’ tasks and think that they do not have time to devote to prayer each day. Do you ever feel like you don’t have time to pray? How might your busyness be impacted by a deeper dedication to daily prayer?
I am Dr. Edward Sri, so excited to be a part of this Pray More Novenas Advent Retreat. And I’m really, really, honored and excited to share with you about something that’s so important for our spiritual lives. It’s what I like to call the primacy of the interior life. Really get the primacy of the interior life. Do you make your interior life the most important thing, more important than what’s going on in your career? What’s going on with your professional life, your family life, your kids even, and, you know, as important as all that is our vocation. And although we maybe even do for the church evangelization, do you really make it a priority to cultivate, to grow, to deepen your interior life, to encounter Jesus day to day in a real prayer life, a committed, consistent daily prayer life?
Because it’s when we do that, that all the blessings come from really living deeply in Christ, and it ends up blessing all that we ended up doing with our family, with the work, and all that we do in this world. But I want to talk about that in this session and the next, we’re going to do this in two parts, but let’s turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She who really models for us, most perfectly. Someone who was so devoted to the interior life. She experienced those unique graces in her immaculate conception and then was so faithful to them. So perfectly all throughout her life. So faithful to those promptings of the Spirit, it was really Jesus leading her life, working through her completely. And that’s what we long for. Let’s ask Mary to pray for us as we begin.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen. In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Owing it to God
One thing I want to highlight for you is that we want to make our commitment to daily prayer, our faithfulness to daily prayer. Why to make this primacy of the interior life really the number one thing, it really giving it primacy because that’s what we’re just called to do out of justice to God, right? St. Thomas Aquinas talks about in the virtues, the number one virtue of justice is the virtue of religion. What we owe God, and we owe Him worship. We owe Him our devotion. We owe Him prayer.
So, prayer, we’re going to talk about, I’m going to emphasize how prayer does a lot for us, but I want to just make sure you know that even if I don’t get any feelings from prayer, I don’t think like it’s doing anything for me. Like whatever it does for me, and it does a lot, is secondary to just my responsibility. I owe God because of who He is as the divine being, I owe Him my whole heart, my whole life, and I owe Him time in prayer and in worship. So that’s the main reason we give primacy to the interior life. I’m going to assume you get that, right?
But I want to focus on these sessions though, on what happens, the blessings that come when we make it a priority, because really, all we do flows from our interior life, everything. All that we do in our careers, all that we do in parish, you know, if we’re involved in any kind of Catholic Apostolic activity, all that we do in our friendships, all that we do in our dating relationships, our marriages, especially our raising children, all of that’s dependent on what’s happening on the inside. Do I really make my interior life a priority?
It’s Not Just About You
Let me just go personal here. My wife, Beth, I love Beth. And Beth’s an amazing woman and I really sincerely love her, but I have to be honest, Beth needs from me a lot more than Edward Sri’s love. Because Edward Sri’s love is good, it’s noble, it’s got a number of good qualities, but it’s also tainted by my pride, my selfishness, my lack of generosity, my hurts from my past, my various weaknesses and sins. I can’t give Beth what she needs. I need Jesus radiating through me. I want Jesus to love my wife through me, but that can only happen if I am really deeply committed to living from my interior life and cultivating that interior life.
Same thing, my kids need a lot more than Edward Sri’s love. I love my kids, I really do, and I serve them in many ways, but I know it falls short. I know I can be impatient with them, or I can maybe sometimes be too harsh with them. Other times, maybe I’m not strict enough with them in disciplining them and whatever it is, because I’m lazy. You know, like my weakness keeps me from giving the best of myself to my kids and I regret that. But my children, they need a lot more than Edward Sri’s love. Because my love is far from perfect. They need Jesus, Jesus loving them through me. And that’s why I need to make my daily prayer life a top priority. The cultivating of an encounter with Christ. I have to live from my interior life for the sake of my children.
First and foremost. Remember, I pray because I’m worshiping God, and I owe God my prayer, my whole life. That’s the number one thing, right? But I want you to also see, it’s not just about me and God. It’s also about my wife. My wife suffers when I fail in prayer. My children will feel the effect of my lack of commitment in making the interior life the priority. My colleagues at work need me to have a deep interior life. The people I lead, they need me to have a deep interior life. The people that read my books. So you, all of you watching this talk. I pray that you’re learning something from this, but I pray you’re getting a lot more than just, “Oh, there’s Edward Sri’s interesting insight.” You know, or “Ooh, Dr. Sri he’s a good speaker, and he’s engaging.” You know, great, God can use all that, but ultimately, I pray that you’re encountering Jesus right now. That Jesus is speaking through me.
But there’s something that, you know, if I’m really in tune with the Holy Spirit, prompting me, guiding me, that it’s not just my words. I pray. And I know God uses our words and our talents, and our skills and our organizational ability. Of course, He uses all that. But ultimately, we want Christ to radiate through us. I pray that you’re encountering something of Jesus when you hear this talk, or when you read one of my books, you know, that it’s not just, “Oh, a nice turn of phrase by Dr. Sri.” No, no, but there’s, it’s coming from my prayer life. It’s coming from Christ, that I’m attentive to the Holy Spirit guiding me.
Don’t you want your life led by the Holy Spirit and not led by yourself? I know me, that my weakness is I want to control everything, and I want to lead my life and everything, but I know that that’s my weakness, and I know that when I’m in charge like that, things don’t always go well. They usually don’t go well. I want to be led by Jesus. That will only happen if I have a consistent daily prayer life. And I mean more than just saying prayers and devotions and the Rosary and reading things. I’m talking about a real encounter. We’re going to get into that. I mean, you’ll know what that looks like in a bit here.
But, I want to share with you just to kind of, as we’re casting the vision, to think about something St. John Henry Newman once wrote a beautiful prayer. The Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s order, prays this prayer every morning, they have mass. They do Holy Hour, they mass and then they say this prayer after Holy Communion, its beautiful prayer called “Radiating Christ”. And I’m going to paraphrase the idea, but basically, they pray, the sisters pray ‘may every soul I come in contact with today, Jesus, may every soul I come in contact with, look up and see no longer me, but see you shining through me.’ Isn’t that beautiful? ‘May every soul I come in contact with, look up and see no longer just me, but you, Jesus, shining through me.’
The Best Time for a Holy Hour
Wouldn’t it be wonderful? If every soul you came in contact with today, your spouse, your children, your roommate, your friends, your family, your colleagues at the office, that every soul you come in contact with touches something, if not just you, but of Christ, they encountered Jesus in you, isn’t that be wonderful?
I’ll give you an example. My wife gets embarrassed when I use her as examples, but she’s so wonderful. And she’s so committed on her prayer life. We have a big household. We have eight children. And you know, now I have two that are in college now, but you know, but in the day when all eight were at home, I mean, even at sixes, we still have six at home. It’s overwhelming. We’re still drowning, you know? But in the midst of busy family life, you know, little kids, teenagers, and driving around everywhere, you know, it’s just so much going on. That’s even more important that we pray in times like that.
Mother Teresa, when her order was expanding, I think it was in the early 1970s, expanding all over the world, more and more houses opening up for the Missionaries of Charity all around the world. She realized, “Wow, I’m stretched like never before. I’m so overwhelmed. There’s so much to do. So, what we better do is we better pray an extra Holy Hour.” That was her response, right? If you’re busy, if you feel overwhelmed, that’s the more of a reason to give more time in prayer.
Because you realize, I need God. I need God to help me. I can’t do it on my own. It’s when we’re spiritually proud when we’re, I’m too busy to pray. I, you know, then I think I’m just so overwhelmed, so stretched, I don’t have time to pray. That’s actually a form of spiritual pride. It’s like, I’m actually saying, “Jesus, I’m so busy. I don’t have time for You. I mean, I don’t really need You. I mean, I just need more time so that Edward Sri can get all these things done.” That’s pride. You realize like, if I really recognize how dependent I am on God, how much I really need Him in those moments, when I’m stretched, I should be running to the chapel more often. I should be falling on my knees more often. I should be creating more time to beg God. I’ve got so much on my plate. I need you. He loves it. When we fall on our knees, and we beg Him for help like that. But it’s when we go, I’m just too busy right now. I don’t have as much time for prayer, I’m just going to go use all this time on my own that He’s going to just let us go and say, “Well, good luck with that.” You know? And He leaves us on our own. And when we’re on our own, things don’t go well.
Coffee and Prayer
So back to my wife, so my wife, she doesn’t drink as much coffee now as she used to. But there was a period of, you know, where she was definitely needing a full cup of coffee every morning. And her commitment to daily prayer began the night before when she would make her cup of coffee the night before. And she’d put it in one of these super-duper thermoses and set the thermos right beside the bed. And then she’d wake up in the morning. And she had opened up the blinds and fall on her knees to her morning offering. And then she would just sit by our bedside and look outside. We have a beautiful view of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. And she would do her morning prayer. She’d have her devotional books there; she had her coffee right there. And she would do her half hour of meditation and prayer. And it was beautiful.
But some of you are wondering, “Well, why did she make her coffee the night before?” You know what I mean? Yeah, it’s an a thermos, but it’s still not as good. Why don’t you want to just go downstairs and make a fresh pot of coffee in the morning and then pray? Well, it’s because in a household of eight children, if she goes downstairs, she’s never coming back up to get her prayer time in. She goes down those stairs to make coffee, it’s going to be non-stop questions. “Mom, mom, I need you to sign this for school.” “Mom, mom, I need you to tie my shoe.” “Mom, where’s, I need a lunch, mom.” “Mom, where’s my.” One thing after another. She’s never going to get that prayer time in.
So, she made her coffee the night before. So, the very first thing she could do in the morning was get her prayer time in. And she wanted the coffee to be, you know, mentally, spiritually awake to give the best of herself to God, but it was right there, and she could get her prayer time in. And the reason she did that is because when she goes down the stairs to be with the children, she wants to give the best of herself. She wants to give the best of herself, and she knows the best of herself isn’t herself. It’s Jesus in her, Jesus radiating through her. She wants to walk down those steps. And is Cardinal Newman says in that beautiful prayer, she wants the children to look up and see not just her, but to see Jesus.
Seeing the Big Picture
My friends, we’re going to talk about what a real faithful commitment to the interior life looks like next. In this first session, I really just wanted to present the big picture, how important it is first and foremost for our worship of God, but how much our spouse depends, If you’re married, your spouse depends on you to have a deeper interior life. When you don’t make the interior life a priority, it has a negative consequence for your spouse and for your children and for your friends, and all that you’re doing and your work, everything. Do you really want to live guided by the Holy Spirit, attentive to the promptings of the Spirit in your life? We’re going to talk about that next. You know, what do I need to, what does that look like? But I hope that you see the importance of, I’ve got to make this a priority. I’ve got to be faithful to my daily prayer. And I mean, a lot more than, you’re not, I don’t mean saying prayers. I don’t mean just reading things and doing morning and evening prayer, or the Rosary, is beautiful as all those things are. I’m talking about intimate conversation with God. I’m talking about what the church describes as meditation and contemplation.
Do we have a faithful commitment to our prayer life? We’re going to talk about that next. And how do we fit that in, in a busy, crazy life that we feel we have sometimes, we feel like we’re just surviving in life. How do I fit my deep commitment to daily prayer life in the midst of a busy life. When I feel like I just don’t have time to breathe, how do I, how do we do that? We’re going to talk about that next. Check that out in the next session. God bless.
About Dr. Edward Sri
Dr. Edward Sri is a theologian, speaker and author of several best-selling books, including Who Am I to Judge? and Walking with Mary. He is the presenter of several faith formation programs used by thousands of parishes around the world, and is the host of the weekly podcast All Things Catholic. With Curtis Martin, he is a co-founder of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) and currently serves as the organization’s Vice President of Formation. His newest book and video study program is called No Greater Love: A Biblical Walk through Christ’s Passion (available through Ascension Press). You can learn more about Dr. Sri’s work at edwardsri.com