Difficulties in Prayer?
In today’s Gospel, we are told that after JESUS had cured Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, He went off to a lonely place to pray. Perhaps it might seem amazing to us that in spite of JESUS being the Divine Son of God, through Whom all things were made and Who was perfect and sinless, that He should have this need to go off alone and pray to the Father. But Our Lord always prayed and He needed to in order to fulfil His mission – winning our eternal salvation. So if He Who was perfect and sinless needed to pray, what does this mean for us?
Difficulties in prayer can put us off, but we are in good company because many of the saints struggled with it too, so difficulties need not be an obstacle to our spiritual growth. St Thérèse of Lisieux, even after she had become a nun found community prayer and the Rosary difficult. St Bernard wrote that he was so overrun by life’s anxieties and cares that he could barely find time to pray! So often prayer can seem very unsatisfying.
We all suffer from distractions in prayer, but so long as they displease us and we do what we can to re-focus our mind, our prayer doesn’t stop being pleasing to God. The important thing is to persevere even if things become difficult. Giving up accomplishes nothing and we may be depriving ourselves of many spiritual benefits without even realising it. St Thérèse of Lisieux also said, “I have many distractions, but as soon as I am aware of them, I pray for those people, the thought of whom is diverting my attention. In this way, they reap the benefit of my distractions.”
So let us be reassured – difficulties, dryness and distractions in prayer are quite normal for those who seek God. And personal prayer is not the only aspect of our spiritual lives. We also have communal prayer, the sacraments, the reading of the Bible and other spiritual books, or we may find the Liturgy moving and inspiring. God can and does speak to us in many ways.
Fr Paul Gillham IC