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    Entries in Ronald Rolheiser (1)

    Friday
    Jun202014

    Why is Prayer a Struggle?

    Here are some excellent thoughts from Ronald Rolheiser:

    We are not, by choice or ideology, a culture set against solitude, interiority, and prayer. Nor are we, in my opinion, more malicious, more pagan, or afraid of interiority than past ages. Where we differ from the past is not so much in badness as in busyness. Most days, we don't pray simply because we don't get around to it.

    Perhaps the best metaphor to describe our hurried and distracted lives is that of a car wash. When you pull up to a car wash, you are instructed to leave your motor running, to take your hands off the steering wheel, and to keep your foot off the brake. The idea is that the machine itself will suck you through.

    For most of us, that's just what our typical day does to us--it sucks us through. We have smartphones and radios that stimulate us before we are fully awake. Many of us are texting friends, checking Facebook and e-mails, watching the news, or listening to music or talk radio before we even shower or eat breakfast. The drive to work follows the same pattern: stimulated and preoccupied, we listen to the radio, talk on our cell phones, and plan the day's agenda. We return home to television, conversation, activities, and preoccupations of all kinds. Eventually we go to bed, where perhaps we read or watch a bit more TV. Finally, we fall asleep. When, in all of this, did we take time to think, to pray, to wonder, to be restful, to be grateful for life, for love, for health, for God? The day just sucked us through.

    Moreover, prayer is not easy because we are greedy for experience. The spiritual writer Henri Nouwen put this well: "I want to pray," he once said, "but I also don't want to miss out on anything--television, movies, socializing with friends, drinking in the world." Because we don't want to miss out on any experience, prayer is truly a discipline. When we sit or kneel in prayer, our natural craving for experience feels starved and begins to protest.

    Ironically, most of us crave solitude. As our lives grow more pressured, as we grow more tired, and as we begin to talk more about burnout, we fantasize about solitude. We imagine it as a peaceful, quiet place, where we are walking by a lake, watching a sunset, or smoking a pipe by the fireplace. But even here, many times we make solitude yet another activity, something we do.

    Solitude, however, is a form of awareness. It's a way of being present and perceptive within all of life. It's having a dimension of reflectiveness in our daily lives that brings with it a sense of gratitude, appreciation, peacefulness, enjoyment, and prayer. It's the sense, within ordinary life, that life is precious, sacred, and enough.

    How do we foster solitude? How do we get a handle on life so it doesn't just suck us through? How do we begin to lay a foundation for prayer in our lives?

    The first step is to "put out into the deep" by remaining quietly in God's presence in solitude, in silence, in prayer. If this is your first time doing this, set aside fifteen minutes for prayer. In time, you might be able to manage thirty minutes.

    Remember: Your heart is made to rest in God.

    If fifteen minutes sounds like a big step, start with one minute. Then stretch it to two. Then three. Then five.

    Create space for solitude. Slow down. Pray. Rest in God.

    To learn more, pick up Rolheiser's book, Prayer: Our Deepest Longing.