Truth in Prayer

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from The Art of Praying
Romano Guardini

No hard-and-fast rules can be laid down for this; we shall discuss it more fully later. But whatever routine one may adopt, one should carry it out honestly and conscientiously. In matters of prayer we are only too apt to deceive ourselves because, generally speaking, man does not enjoy praying. He easily experiences boredom, embarrassment, unwillingness, or even hostility. Everything else appears to him more attractive and more important. He persuades himself that he has not got the time, that there are other more urgent things to do; but no sooner has he given up prayer than he applies himself to the most trivial tasks. We should stop lying to God. Better to say openly, "I do not wish to pray," than to make such excuses. Better not to resort to specious justifications such as, for instance, tiredness, but to declare, "I do not feel like praying." This may sound less decorous, but at least it is the truth which leaves the way open, whereas self-deception does not.

A word to the wise is enough. Y'all know who you are, so just stop it. :-) And, of course, I'm a big one to be talking. But it is nice to have someone point out to you a few home truths.

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Nice post, Steven. In keeping with the author, I admit: I don't like to pray. She described me to a T. Like the Catechism states, prayer is a battle.

Thank you, Steven. This reminded me of one of Fr Rainero Cantalamessa's wonderfully daring 2003 Advent meditations, perhaps because of the initial Carmelite connection.


"The mystics have, however, something to say also to us believers, not only to the atheists. They are not an exception, or a category apart from Christians. Rather they show in an amplified way, what the full expansion of the life of grace should be. One thing above all we learn from the dark night of the mystics and, in particular, of Mother Teresa: how to behave in the time of dryness, when prayer becomes a struggle, effort, a beating of the head against a 'wailing wall.'

"There is no need to insist on Mother Teresa's prayer in all those years passed in darkness; the image of her in prayer is the one we all still have before our eyes. A series of very beautiful prayers are among the most precious legacy that she has left to her daughters and to the Church. Of Jesus, the evangelist Luke says that 'And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly,' 'factus in agonia prolixius orabat' (Luke 22:44). It is what is also observed in the life of these souls.

"Dryness in prayer, when it is not the result of dissipation and of compromises with the flesh, but permitted by God, is the attenuated and common form that the dark night takes in the majority of people who tend to holiness. In this situation, it is important not to give up and begin to omit prayer to give oneself to work, seeing that very little is achieved by being at prayer. When God is not there, it is important at least that his place remain empty and that it not be taken by some idol, especially the one called activism.

"To avoid that happening, it is good to interrupt one's work every now and then to raise at least a thought to God, or to simply sacrifice a bit of time to him. In the time of dryness it is necessary to discover a special type of prayer that Blessed Angela of Foligno defined as forced prayer and that she said she herself practiced:

"'It is a good thing and very pleasing to God that you pray with the fervor of divine grace, that you watch and make efforts to carry out every good action; but it is more pleasing and acceptable to the Lord if, receiving less grace, you do not reduce your prayer, your vigils, your good works. Act without grace, as you acted when you had grace. ... You do your part, my son, and God will do his. Forced, violent prayer is very acceptable to God.'

"This is a prayer that can be made with the body and with the mind. It is a secret alliance between the will and the body and it is necessary to use it to reduce the mind ... to reason. Even when our will cannot command the mind to have or not have certain thoughts, it can command the body: the knees to kneel, the hands to be joined together, the lips to open and pronounce some words; for example: 'Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.'

"An Eastern mystic, Isaac the Syrian, said: 'When the heart is dead and we no longer have the least prayer nor any supplication, may he come and find us prostrated with our faces to the ground perpetually.'"

- Neil



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on March 15, 2004 7:34 AM.

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