By: Natalie Plumb
I hesitate to call anything “normal.” But some things simply are. We are all different, but we are all sinners. We are all unique Children of God, but we all fall. The same is true with prayer.
Bulleted lists and “three simple steps” are corny, but I think this most important of building blocks to our faith merits a “formula of difficulties” if what you need is a jump start, a pick-me-up from the rut of dryness, doubt or discernment.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve attended a fantastic set of prayer talks led by seminarian Matthew Fish at Epiphany Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Washington. From those talks, I took a lot. From it, in coming weeks, what I hope to share with you most is a particular set of periods we all go through in prayer. I’ll seek to break them down, and apply them to my life (which shouldn’t prove too difficult). This will be as much a relieving exercise for me as it is vulnerable. Hopefully through that, it will be revealing to you in your prayer life, giving you relief if you are struggling, and hope if you are on the brink of despair.
So here goes…
I quite possibly never recovered fully from my “honeymoon with God.” I used to kneel every day in front of my bedroom window, and just talk to my Savior. I had a true relationship with Him. I never missed a night in front of that window, looking up at the sky, and for the star that I just knew was winking at me.
Distractions of the world consumed me starting sometime in high school, and they became stronger in college. My prayer life began to dwindle because I “wasn’t feeling anything.” I started to crave the consolation of prayer desperately. And in a lot of ways I still do.
Prayer can make us feel good. Prayer can give us sensations of euphoria. It can give us satisfaction. Essentially what we begin to fall in love with after a while, until God inserts change, is “what we want” out of prayer (read: prayer is not a substitute for happy gas), even without giving us “what we need.” So that’s when God begins to pull away. He says, Come closer, my Child.
In reality, dryness in prayer is a call for you to deeper holiness, and deeper sacrifice of time, thought, body, and mind.
If prayer isn’t giving you consolation, take consolation…basically, you’ve progressed in your prayer life so far that God wants you to graduate to the next level, and to take it up a notch.
When life has you on your knees, you’re in the perfect position to pray. If prayer isn’t giving you consolation, and the feedback you think you “need,” remember that God knows exactly what and how much you actually need, and abandon yourself to His Divine Providence. If prayer isn’t giving you consolation, take consolation in the fact that you’ve hit a bump in the road – basically, you’ve progressed in your prayer life so far that God wants you to graduate to the next level, and to take it up a notch. So don’t give up. Pray through the storm.
Here’s a short and sweet example of a prayer I might say (often enough), in times when I’m dry, and I feel as if I’m receiving little consolation and feedback from my Father:
You hold my heart. You have it close to You. I want to proclaim Your name to all the earth. But my lips are dry. My heart feels stale. My body aches for some sort of sign that I am still being held by You.
I will pray through this. I cannot fail. You are Christ. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
When I am down, I am in no better position than to pray. I need periods of dryness so that I can see that consolations are only Yours to give.
Help me to face this period of dryness with the humility and the fierce strength of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
In coming weeks, I’ll discuss doubt in prayer and discernment. Mother Teresa, pray for us!
Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.