When Your Prayer Life Is Stuck
Last week I reread my book “Praying on Empty.” You might find some thoughts from it helpful—if not now, sometime later…
My God, grant that I may love you,
and grant that the only reward of my love
will be to love you always more and more.
A priest advised a man who couldn’t pray to place a chair opposite him and imagine Jesus seated there looking at him. Then he was to converse with Jesus as with a friend. The man discovered that this was the key to escaping from his “desert.” Later the man was hospitalized and died. His daughter said, “It was the strangest thing. They found Dad with his head out of the bed and resting on a chair.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of “the battle of prayer.” It acknowledges that prayer isn’t easy. Good advice is “pray hardest when it is the hardest to pray.” St. Francis de Sales said, “Never let him go, whether you walk in the light or in the darkness.” Try to hold onto God with your fingertips! Here are recommendations for weathering a draught in your prayer life.
Appeal to the Holy Spirit.
This Holy Spirit is the Person whose job it is to make us holy. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to be our helper. Tap into this divine source of power to recharge your prayer life.
Ask others to pray for you.
The California’s redwood trees are the tallest trees on earth, yet their roots are only five or six feet deep. How can these mammoth trees stand and resist strong winds and floods? Because the roots of all redwood trees in a grove intertwine and fuse. Thus, the trees resemble our Communion of Saints. We are bonded with all members of God’s family in heaven and on earth and offer mutual assistance. So confide to friends your trials in prayer. They might offer advice and support you by their prayers. If you are uncomfortable sharing your inner turmoil with others, simply ask them to pray for a special intention.
Appeal to your friends in heaven. When my friend Patrick battled cancer, he lost contact with God for a time. But every day he prayed to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for healing. He believes that it was through her intercession that he survived his physical and spiritual ordeals. He says that ever since he studied at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where St. Elizabeth got him through his studies, she has been his girlfriend.
You also have a guardian angel, whose job description includes guiding you to heaven. Why not ask your angel for assistance in praying?
Make sure the conditions are conducive to prayer. You might close your eyes as you try to be open to God’s love. After all, this is what we do when we kiss. Not being able to see eliminates some distractions and facilitates focusing on the invisible. St. John of the Cross said, “If a man wishes to be sure of the road he’s traveling on, then he must close his eyes and travel in the dark.”
Use one word or phrase to make you aware of God.
Repeat a prayer word or phrase, called a mantra. The author of Cloud of the Unknowing said, “A short prayer pierces the heaven.” The simplest one is “Jesus.” A longer form, known as the Jesus prayer, is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The rhythm of the words is as soothing as waves on the shore or a rocking chair. More important, the words make you aware that God is with you.
It also helps to repeatedly pray a word or phrase during the day. Being more conscious of God’s presence outside of regular prayer time makes it easier to tune into God then.
Offer your spiritual suffering to God for an intention.
Offer up your dry spell for a person who needs help, a problem in your family, vocations, world peace, or a sad situation in the news.
You might also embrace your distress and offer it as atonement for your sins, so that it becomes a kind of purgatory on earth. You might pray with St. Augustine, “Lord, here cut, here burn, and spare me not, but spare me in eternity.”
Make a retreat.
During a wood-chopping race, the man who won occasionally rested. His secret? During his rests, he sharpened his ax! A retreat is rest from our hectic lives. It is a source of graces: God must be pleased that we squeeze time out of our busy schedules to come apart and be alone with him. During a retreat you might hear, read, or realize something to spark your prayer life.
Register for a week-long retreat, a weekend retreat, or a half-day of recollection. Options exist for group retreats and private retreats. A retreat can be carried out alone at home. Books, DVDs, and websites are available to guide personal retreats.
Find God through other people.
A woman from Kenya shared one of her country’s proverbs with me: No one stands by the fire without getting warmed. Faith is contagious. Talk to, read about, or view movies about people who are on fire with love of God. Their fire might spread to you.
One or more of these strategies may change God being “nowhere” for you to being “now here.”
O Holy Spirit,
you came to live in me the day I became a child of God.
Right now I feel estranged from my heavenly Father.
Give me the desire to pray.
Activate in me the faith, hope, and charity
that you infused in me at baptism.
I want to believe. I want to hope. I want to love God.
I call upon you for help. Please hear and answer me.
~ Mary Kathleen Glavich, S.N.D.
I like this version of “The Prayer” especially because I can see the lyrics…
• What suggestion in this post appeals to you most?
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