In Deuteronomy 5:32, Moses says, “So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.” Moses addressed these words to Israel. We know history. We know that they did turn to the right, left, up, down, in every possible direction, variation and combination.
How can we be careful so as to not turn aside to the right and the left?
As always the answer is prayer. But it is not just prayer, rather it is prayerfulness. Prayer is an act, but prayerfulness an attitude. Prayerfulness is a way of being marked by “ceaseless prayer” as Paul says in Thessalonians 5:17.
I was reading about Origen’s thoughts on prayer, “those who give themselves continually to prayer know by experience that through this fervent practice they avoid innumerable sin and are led to perform many good deeds.” Prayerfulness is about filling up our consciousness with ceaseless prayer to God. Such prayerfulness is the mark of the life of a Saint. Such prayerfulness is the source of all virtues.
There are 3 aspects to this way of prayefulness.
1.Prayer places us before God.
2.Prayer reminds us that God is present and looking at us.
3.Prayer changes our disposition.
When we are filling up our mind with ceaseless prayer, then the mind has little space for the seeds of sin to germinate. A mind filled with the sense of ceaseless prayer is focused, it is not distracted to the right or the left.
In the life of Israel, anytime they were stressed they were prone to turn to the left or the right, away from the straight path. When Moses did not come down from Mount Sainai, they decided they would figure out a way to recreate God’s image and made the golden calf to worship it. During times of stress and trail people of Israel channeled their anxiety into things, as in Golden Calf, that took them away from God.
We too do something similar in life – when we are faced with some stressful choices, financial anxiety, fear of rejection, shame about the past. To palliate our negative feelings, we are tempted to turn to the right or the left to distract ourselves using a range of compulsive behaviors from watching TV to giving in to addictions. In these stressful situations, being prayerful means that we channel our energy into praying to God. Stresses an anxieties of life channeled into prayer deepens our identity in God, changing our disposition, making us more faithful to him.
The way to live the Deutronomy 5:32 life of faithfulness is through prayerfulness, practicing ceasless prayer. If we are stressed about something, instead of trying to find relief from the negative emotions by compulsive behavior, we channel this energy into prayerfulness, the cornerstone of our faithfulness.