"We read that some of the Fathers in the desert, unable to apply themselves continually to prayer and spiritual reading, yet resolving not to spend any of their time idly, employed all their leisure hours in making baskets of palms, or in some other manual labour. At the end of the year many of them burnt what they had made, having laboured only for the sake of employment, and to avoid idleness. So ought we to make what relates to our spiritual advancement our chief business, and to apply ourselves to all our other affairs...with the same spirit as these holy Fathers did to making their baskets; that is, without weakening, in the slightest degree, our obligation to work out our salvation, and aspire continually to perfection."
I find this such a beautiful image, and one I often return to, these dedicated follwers of Christ who were so given over to the worship of God that nothing of this earth held any value to them.
I think the example of these early Christians can teach us a lot about our priorities in our own lives. Obviously we, who live in the world, have obligations which we have to fulfil, people to care for so we cannot give our time over entirely to prayer and basket making! What we can learn from the Fathers though is that our first priority in life is our spiritual life and everything else leads into and out of that relationship with the Blessed Trinity which we must strive to foster.
Personally, I can find plenty of "good" reasons why, when it comes to a time I could use for prayer, I should do other things some of which might be themselves extremely valuable, such as writing a letter to someone who would appreciate it, do a bit of study or go for a much needed walk. All these things are important but if I don't pray now, when will I pray? If I end up unable to find opportunity to pray today, what about tomorrow, yet more excuses perhaps?
Of course, our spiritual lives do not consist solely of prayer; as I was saying a moment ago everything in our lives should lead into and out of our spiritual life. By serving others, fulfiling our obligations to the best of our abilities, living virtuous lives we are drawn closer to Christ who asks these things of us, and by maintaining a close and intimate relationship with him through prayer and receiving the sacraments we are given strength to serve him in the world. Let's put our relationship with Christ at the centre of our lives, so that we might be saints that Christ wants us to be and the world needs us to be!