The year has gotten off to its start, and many of us have probably made the New Year’s resolution to pray daily, especially in this special Year of Prayer. However, we know from experience that if we do not have firm conviction and a good plan, as the months go by we tend to forget our good intentions.
Spiritual progress is something we must take seriously because we’re talking about nothing less than our relationship with God. And, just as it happens with any interpersonal relationship, our relationship with the Lord must be cultivated little by little. Friends get to know each other by spending time together, talking about deep topics, discovering shared interests, revealing dreams, projects, and problems. We must treat God in the same way.
The method of St. Teresa of Jesus
The great Teresa of Avila knew that we must unite prayer to Christian life. For her, the evangelical virtues are the foundation of advancement in perfection and must be part of our spiritual itinerary. Whoever wants to reach Heaven will face obstacles that will make them stumble. Sometimes the hurdles will be external, like the noise and the environment in which we move; others internal, like attachments and mundane or sinful desires.
St. Teresa explains that God knows our weaknesses and asks only that we be willing to try. That is why she speaks of “determined determination.”
What does she mean by this? It’s a play on words that works both in Spanish and in English. First, she means that we must focus on something concrete, delimited, and specific — something clearly determined. Praying is something concrete, and our relationship to God is specific. Focusing on this and not on other things is a delimitation.
Now we have a precisely determined objective to achieve; knowing that we want to pray, we have taken the first step. But this decision requires determination in the other sense of the word too: “firmness of purpose; resoluteness.” Making the resolution to pray, with freedom and awareness, is a courageous choice because it will not always be easy.
Thus, praying with “determined determination” requires courage, perseverance, and much love. We will have to face our fears, misgivings, and interior resistance to love that may arise from within us. Moreover, it implies fidelity, self-giving, and allowing ourselves to be seduced by God.
St. Teresa dedicated her life to prayer and work, understanding that she could not desire anything else than unity with God, who is always faithful.
Let us imitate her example with determined determination.