Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Prayer: sometimes refreshing . . . sometimes a struggle

I am so thankful for times of prayer that lift the heart and soul; times of spiritual refreshing; times of experiencing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as a real and powerful anointing; times when the healing balm of the Lord's presence brings joy, comfort and strength. We can have those experiences when we are deeply moved in worship with our church family; and also when we are alone in prayer. Unlike some mean-spirited religious people, I want to tell you that such blessings are a gift from God. My advice to you if you find yourself in a time of refreshing is to linger, allow the Lord to minister to you, and - yes - ENJOY!

Just because we know that there are desert patches through which we will have to trudge doesn't mean that we should feel guilty or immature during times of blessing. It is precisely BECAUSE of the stretch of desert ahead that the Lord will bring us to an oasis for a time. We should drink. We should rest. We should make the most of it. We should thank the Lord for it and intentionally use the blessings of the oasis to prepare ourselves for whatever drought-stricken wasteland lies ahead. That's just the rhythm of life; and it's the rhythm of the spiritual life, too.

The other side of this truth, of course, is that we shouldn't give up praying just because we find it difficult to pray. We know from their writings that most of the great Saints and spiritual guides down through the centuries experienced times of struggle and frustration in prayer. From their lives we learn that whatever physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual blockages might get in the way, God’s love can - and will - win through. Our part is to persevere, especially in times of spiritual dryness.

That's one of the reasons we should have someone - a priest, a pastor, a religious sister or brother, or a lay person who is a little bit further down the track than we are - who can help us try to understand what God is doing in our life. (Even when prayer is NOT difficult, it is still a good idea to have someone like that - a "spiritual guide.")

One of the best "no-nonsence" paragraphs about prayer, in relation to what I have just said, is this passage from the RULE FOR A NEW BROTHER by a Dutch Blessed Sacrament Father, published by Darton, Longman & Todd in 1973:

Sometimes you will taste and see how good the Lord is.
Be glad then, and give him all honour,
because his goodness to you has no measure.

Sometimes you will be dry and joyless
like parched land or an empty well.
But your thirst and helplessness will be your best prayer
if you accept them with patience
and embrace them lovingly.

Sometimes your prayer will be an experience
of the infinite distance that separates you from God;
sometimes your being and his fullness
will flow into each other.

Sometimes you will be able to pray
only with your body and hands and eyes;
sometimes your prayer will move beyond words and images;
sometimes you will be able to leave everything behind you
to concentrate on God and his Word.

Sometimes you will be able to do nothing else
but take your whole life and everything in you and bring them to God.

Every hour has its own possibilities of genuine prayer.


Br Bernardine FHC said...

Thanks for the good read!

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