Summer vacation is here, and that means it's time to start putting together the pool/beach bag for the inevitable swimming trip to beat the heat. Bathing suit, towel, sunglasses, flip-flops and, of course, sunscreen. As I was applying sunscreen recently, it occurred to me that sunscreen and prayer share a lot of similarities.
They protect you
Sunscreen protects your skin from harmful sun rays. Similarly, when we pray, our relationship with God deepens and we find protection from the world around us.
It becomes easier to say 'no' to the things this world offers (like a movie or a party) and 'yes' to the ways of God. The world can offer a distorted view of things, like family life, sexuality, and money, but through prayer the Holy Spirit helps us to see the truth.
You need to reapply
If you read your sunscreen label carefully, you'll see that you're supposed to reapply the sunscreen every few hours, or after you get wet. If you don't you won't be protected since the sunscreen has worn off.
In the same way, you can't just pray once a week at Church and expect to have deep relationship with God. Any relationship requires a commitment, and effort. We need to 'reapply' by praying every day. We may have grown in holiness at a retreat last winter, but we won't keep growing if we don't keep praying.
While we typically only use sunscreen at the beach, anyone who skis knows that using it on the slopes is a must keep your face from being burned by the sun's reflection on the snow. And I found that if I don't use sunscreen while driving in the summer, I end up with two different colored arms. So basically, you can use sunscreen everywhere.
You can pray everywhere, too. In fact, St. Paul said, 'Pray without ceasing' (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). So while there are places more favorable to prayer, like at Church before the Blessed Sacrament, or in our 'prayer corner' at home (CCC 2691), we can still pray on the bus, at school, or at work. One easy way is to offer up everything you do by saying, 'For you, Jesus.'
You might think you don't need it, but you do
Some people claim that they never tan, only burn. But just because you don't look like a lobster doesn't mean your skin cells can't turn cancerous later. At the very least you'll reach middle age and discover your skin has the consistency of leather.
Sometimes we don't think we need to pray either, because we don't 'feel' like we need God. But the truth is that we always need God. If we don't pray regularly to build a relationship with Him then when hard times come and we finally feel like we need Him, it's difficult to listen to His voice since we're so out of practice. Regular prayer is a necessity.
So go out into the sun this summer and start lathering on your sunscreen. But don't let your laid back summer routine interfere with a regular prayer life.