The first thing to realize about prayer is that it can be boring. Just about everything else we do gives us results within a relatively short period of time. Not so in prayer. I began praying the rosary daily as a freshman in high school. My motive was to pray for world peace. The Sisters Charity had taught me in grammar school that Our Lady of Fatima urged us to pray five mysteries of the rosary daily for world peace. I would coach myself often, “If you want world peace, you’d better pray the rosary.”
So I started in the Spring of my freshman year. It was only in my junior year that I began to see results. I looked at my life and noticed, “This is changing me. I am going to keep it up!”
Finding A Motive To Pray
So everyone needs a motive to get them to do this thing that does not seem to produce any concrete results for quite some time. We need faith that God is there, He is listening and He will make us better, holier, happier if we pray.
The saints give us motivations to pray. St. Alphonsus Ligouri said, “Those who pray are saved. Those who do not are damned.” Strong words from that Doctor of the Church.
St. Teresa of Ávila was often extremely bored by prayer at first. Since she was a Religious Sister she had to participate in meditative prayer every day. Some days she dreaded that time and had to force herself to go in to pray. In time she noticed that the prayer she had done under duress made her feel better than the prayer she did when she felt like praying. Years later she became a prayer warrior, and she wrote that when she `abandoned prayer it was like “putting myself right into hell without the need of devils.”
God Requires Effort, Not Success When It Comes To Prayer
When it comes to prayer, we have to remember that Jesus said we would have to bear a cross to follow him (Luke 9:23). It’s not supposed to be easy, and that includes developing a strong prayer life. Happily, the saints show us that it gets easier and we continue to work at prayer.
It is true that we often receive consolations at prayer, that is a good feeling. But as we continue to grow, we may all of a sudden experience dryness as we pray. In other words the consolations disappear. Some find this alarming and wonder if they have done something wrong. Probably just the opposite. We have graduated from being a beginner. The harder it is to pray the more grace-filled it is.
The Lord Jesus told St. Margaret of Cortona, “Daughter, you would ever be nourished with the sweets of internal consolation; but this should not be so, because you are the daughter of my side, where you should take in blood and grief and pain: and I assure you that by your constancy in desolations, I am better served, and you gain greater merit, for then you serve me not for your pleasure but for mine.” And St. Francis de Sales wrote, “One ounce of desolation is worth pound of consolations.”
From time to time people say they feel their prayer is not as effective as it once was. St. Francis de Sales has an answer to this as well: “We should labor without any uneasiness as to results. God requires efforts on our part, but not success.”
What About Distractions During Prayer?
What about distractions at prayer. Should we be concerned about these? Not very. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say:
The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction… To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve. (CCC, para. 2729)
Jesus told St. Teresa of Ávila once as she struggled with distractions, “…be patient, for as long as you live, a wandering mind cannot be avoided.”
So, in summary, prayer can be difficult at times, and even dry without consolations, but it is essential to reach the kingdom, even with distractions.
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