Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 17, 2003
Battle spiritual ennui with your prayers
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
But we're not just too busy to pray, we're also too restless.
It's hard to pray when we are restless. Henri Nouwen agrees: "I want to pray, "but I also don't want to miss out on anything - television, movies, socializing with friends, drinking in the world."
Our deepest greed is not for money, but for experience. We don't want to miss out on life. Thus, to pray is truly a discipline because when we sit or kneel in prayer, so many of our natural cravings feel starved and protest. Restlessness is a great impediment to prayer.
Finally, beyond the headaches and restlessness, there is the ambiguity of prayer itself. Simply put, prayer isn't easy because we don't understand it, don't know how to do it, and don't understand how the experience should feel. Talking to God, hearing God's voice, and centring ourselves in God is not as easy as we sometimes make it out to be. God's reality, while massively real and the ground of the whole universe, is not physical and tangible like the things of this world.
The world seems more real, family and friends can be hugged, touched, and talked to, and physical sensation of all kinds don't leave us doubting its reality. But relating to God demands something else and it's easy to find ourselves bored, doubting, distracted and anxious to get on to something else when we try to pray.
What we experience in prayer is just as real as the physical world, but we need to be at a certain depth of prayer to know this - and that's the paradox: Because prayer can seem unreal, we often stop doing it, but it will only seem real if we persevere in it long enough and do it deeply enough. We often give up too soon. Prayer isn't easy.
By definition, prayer is a non-pragmatic, non-utilitarian activity. It's hard to sit still and (seemingly) do nothing when so many necessary tasks demand our attention and when so much inside us aches for activity and involvement. It's hard to pray when we suffer from the kind of headaches and heartaches that cannot be eased by taking an Aspirin. Walgrave is right. There's a certain conspiracy against the interior life today. But prayer beckons us beyond, asking us to lift even this up to God.
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