Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 14, 2003
Show up! Show up regularly for prayer!
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
Love and prayer can only be sustained through ritual, routine and rhythm.
Today, unfortunately, we are misled by a number of misconceptions about prayer and liturgy. Too commonly, we accept the following set of axioms as wise: Creativity and variety are always good. Every prayer- celebration should be one of high energy. Longer is better than shorter. Either you should pray with feeling or you shouldn't pray at all. Ritual is meaningless unless we are emotionally invested in it.
Each of these axioms is over-romantic, ill thought-out and not helpful in sustaining a life a prayer.
Prayer is a relationship, a long-term one, and lives by those rules. Relating to anyone long-term has its ups and downs.
Nobody can be interesting all the time, sustain high energy all the time or fully invest himself or herself all the time. What sustains a relationship long-term is ritual, routine, a regular rhythm that incarnates the commitment.
Imagine you've an aged mother in a nursing home and you've committed yourself to visiting her twice a week. How do you sustain yourself in this? Not by feeling, energy or emotion, but by commitment, routine and ritual. You go to visit her at a given time, not because you feel like it, but because it's time.
You go to visit her in spite of the fact you sometimes don't feel like it, you sometimes can't give her the best of your heart, and often you are tired, distracted.
Occasionally there will be emotional satisfaction and the sense the something important was shared, but many times, perhaps most times, there will only be the sense that it was good that you were there and that an important life-giving connection has been nurtured and sustained, despite what seemingly occurred at the surface.
You've been with your mother and that's more important than whatever feelings or conversation might have taken place on a given day.
Prayer works the same way. That's why the saints and the great spiritual writers have always said that there is only one, non-negotiable, rule for prayer: "Show up! Show up regularly!" The ups and downs of our minds and hearts are of secondary importance.
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