"...some seed fell on the path...other seed fell on rocky ground...some seed fell among thorns...some seed fell on rich soil..."
The Path - A path is well worn, hard-packed, and impenetrable. Is this your heart? Have you had your share of pain in life and have now closed your heart to anything new, even if it is healing? Do you think others could see God lavishing seed upon you only to have it carried off by birds because there is no opening in your heart?
This "ground" requires serious work. It is the most difficult to cultivate but not impossible. It generally cannot be worked by the person owning such ground. Rather, others must step in to help through prayer, intercession, and intervention. Where the "rich soil" may require only a run-through with the hoe now and then, "the path" requires a pick-axe and spud-bar - prayer and fasting on the person's behalf by those who love him.
Rocky Ground - Rocky ground is rough, unforgiving, and unrelenting. Is this your heart? Are you a poser? Do you have an image to keep? Are the few soft spots in your heart so shallow that nothing can take root in them, not even the love of others? Do you accept the seed, Church teachings, the Gospel, so long as it benefits you? When the pressure is on to be faithful to Christ do you hide behind that hard heart?
This "ground" too requires serious work. The most difficult part of working with rocky ground is clearing the rocks, obviously. What complicates this is the fact that a rock can appear small on the surface but be huge beneath the ground line. The advantage that "rocky ground" has over "the path" is the fact that there are some openings. If the right seed falls into those openings, it can split those rocks over time. This is assisted by a deep prayer life, by the person and/or by those who love him, which can help the seed take root and break apart those rocks.
Thorns - Thorns grow anywhere and everywhere without question. Is this your heart? Are you often confused, entangled in the world? Are you open, allowing every idea to enter into your heart without discernment? Do you accept the Gospel just as easily as you accept New Age practices? Is being Catholic more of a cultural thing or status thing for you? Is the seed of the Gospel just another seed among many that may get choked out in the long run?
Thorns require completely different tools than "the path" or "rocky ground". One may try to cut off the thorns but the problem is the roots as well as the green growth. In order to destroy thorns you must remove them roots and all, otherwise they will eventually grow back. The tools needed for thorns are shears and a shovel - detachment. Detachment can come often through prayer and study of the Scriptures. The most powerful tool, however, is a meditation upon death where the soul realizes that it will be detached from the things of this world in an instant. If we keep death in mind we should never have to worry about thorns, for they can never take root.
Good Soil - Good soil is easy to work with, rich in nutrients, and extremely valuable. Is this your heart? Are you docile to the will of God? Do you allow His word to come and grow in your heart? Do you constantly work the soil of your heart, feeding it with prayer, study, and the sacraments? Are you vigilant to remove any sign of weeds or "thorns"?
Good soil is a blessing not only for the soul itself but for other souls who receive the fruits from it. The growth mentioned by Jesus of thirty-fold and so on is not meant for us alone. These fruits, these seeds, as in the natural world, should spread and take over until the whole world is "good soil", until all hearts are "good soil".
Can the path, rocky ground, and thorny ground become good soil? Without a doubt, with effort. I would venture to say that on any given day you and I may look at our hearts and find that the soil has changed. As in the natural world, the garden of our heart needs constant care if it is to be fruitful. May God give us the grace to work this garden so that it may bear fruit for Him now and in eternity.
FROM THE SAINTS
"Why then, are you not as solicitous for your soul as you are for your estate? I beseech you to notice...that there are two kinds of fields; one belongs to God, the other to man. You possess your farm, and God has his; yours is the land, God's is your soul..." - St. Caesarius of Arles
How to get better at prayer.
- Set a prayer appointment - Set a time on your calendar each day to meet and speak with God.
- Slowly increase your prayer time. - Don't jump in with an hour right from the get-go. Build up your "tolerance" so to speak.
- Commit - to praying and slowly increasing your prayer time for 30 days. Mark off the days on your calendar. If you miss a day, jump right back in, don't give up.
- Pray - praying is talking to God, it's spending time with your attention focused on Him. I enjoy spending time with my children regardless of their level of development. God is the same way. Spend time praying as best you can. Use formal prayers if you want or simply speak in conversation. Don't forget to listen!
- Journal - Our newly revised 4 Simple Steps to Better Scripture Meditations: Guide, Workbook, and Journal walks you through 4 easy steps that will help you go deeper in your prayer life. It includes 31 days of workbook and journal pages too!
- Read other good books about how to pray better - Prayer Primer, Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer, Time for God, The Spiritual Life: A Comprehensive Guide to Catholics Seeking Salvation.