The Word — Not feeling it

Published 6:53 pm Saturday, July 16, 2022

young lady suffering from the havoc and death of WWII wrote to a friend, “I’m still so remote from God that I don’t even sense his presence when I pray…. Prayer is the only remedy for it, and… I shall cling to the rope God has thrown me in Jesus Christ, even if my numb hands can no long[er] feel it.”

“Not feeling it” is a common problem when praying. As if life weren’t already difficult enough, it seems we only experience more failure when we finally make the effort to pray, and that can feel defeating.

What is prayer? It is the lifting up of the mind and heart to God. It can be formal, as it is during a church ceremony, or it can be as simple as giving our attention to God, as we would give our attention to a friend with a visit or a phone call. Merely to remember that we are in God’s presence and to love him is a prayer.

It’s easy to hide behind these pleasant-sounding facts, however, which belie the dryness and dissatisfaction that many of us experience when we actually try to pray. We need perseverance, and that is often what God is seeking from us. If we are trying to please him and don’t intentionally let our minds wander, (although they involuntarily go off-track frequently!) we are pleasing God by our prayer. Perseverance is a proof of love. It is far more important than our failings or our feelings.

Once, I heard a story about a young man who was deployed for active duty overseas. Every day, he would write his mother a short note, which of course gave her great pleasure. Then one day, a note didn’t come. The mother was distraught when the letters gradually became more and more infrequent. She concluded that perhaps he simply didn’t care enough to make the effort to write even a short “hello” daily.

If we don’t spend a few moments each day connecting with Christ, we are like the soldier who stopped writing his mother. Our habit of prayer is lost (or never formed at all), and with it is lost a relationship of true friendship with Jesus. Of course he doesn’t cease to love us, as the soldier’s mother never ceased to love her son, but the friendship is not at its richest, and it more easily slips imperceptibly away from our hearts.

St. Paul wrote that “there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity” (I Corinthians 13:13). Since charity is ultimately our goal, prayer is essential, because it is through prayer that “the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts” (I Romans 5:5). When we pray, we not only fulfill St. Paul’s injunction to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17), but we also come to know God, and hence to love Him as the best possible Friend.

Br. Maximilian Watner is on the the staff at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Buckingham County. He can be reached at webmaster@stas.org.