In Ephesians 5, St. Paul speaks about “redeeming the time” warning those whom he writes that the “days are evil.” It is a phrase that has always reminded me of Christ’s admonition: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34). Both statements are among the most “down to earth” statements in Scripture. They speak to me where I am on any given day.
Every day has its tasks to be accomplished. Every moment has a chore to be or something to which we must attend. In the midst of the very normalcy of our lives, we easily become overwhelmed with distraction and lose all thought of God. It is then that our days begin to unravel.
Christians of every sort have the easy habit of lapsing into a mindless secularism – simple forgetfulness. We do the things at hand as though such mundane activities have no need of God. We wait for the greater challenge of the overtly spiritual, only to discover that when such joyful or demanding moments come – there is “no oil in our lamps.” Whatever joy or longing we may have had for Christ and His kingdom has been swallowed up by distractions of the day.
It is little wonder that we find prayer difficult.
The “constant remembrance of the name of God” is a phrase that is often used for the practice of the Jesus Prayer. It can also refer to any form of remembrance practiced by a Christian in the midst of all things. The repetition of a Psalm verse or other such device has a tradition behind it at least as ancient as the constant invocation of the Name.
Learning to practice such remembrance throughout the course of the day is, without a doubt, the primary means of “redeeming the time” and avoiding “worry for tomorrow.” It is the means given us by God and kept in the Tradition by which we are slowly transformed. On the Holy Mountain and other such places, the lives of monks are generally not spent sitting in silent meditation or in services of super-human length. For the vast majority of the monks, days are spent in carrying out obediences: washing dishes, chopping wood, working in a library, laboring in a garden, taking care of correspondence. If such mundane tasks made prayer impossible, then it is likely no monk would be saved.
Learning to do the tasks of the day while redeeming the time is an essential piece of our warfare – particularly because “the days are evil.” We live in days in which we are told that mundane tasks have no connection to God. This, of course, is simply a lie. We are taught, in fact, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17). And so we redeem the time.