Before action, there is being. Before apostolate, there is prayer. Before mission, there is contemplation.
The primacy of contemplation is rooted in the primacy of grace in the spiritual life. Action is imperative, but God's action comes before our action. Mission is born in contemplation. Contemplative prayer is an encounter with Someone who knows the truth about us. In this prayer, we discover how the Living God contemplates with eager expectation the noble purpose He has planned for us to share in from before the foundation of the world.
Prayer liberates us from everything that prevents us from being fruitful. When we spend time in prayer, we make ourselves vulnerable to a plan that is not our own. When we spend time in silence, we learn to listen to a voice beyond our own big fat ego. When we spend time listening to the Word made flesh, we open our whole being to new life.
This is not to say there are many moments of grace that sprout from our efforts to be merciful to one another. Sometimes these are the dominant graces of our life. God loves to dwell in hearts that spend themselves for others and He is ready to sustain their efforts when nature reaches its limits. Nonetheless, those who want to do something beautiful for God frequently discover that however noble the endeavors for which they spend themselves, their work amounts to nothing if He is not working in them.
This is why those who are truly fruitful for the God humbly root themselves with fear and trembling deep in the Word: such tearful attention to the presence of God who speaks to them in sacred doctrine leads to a jubilation that informs everything they do.