Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Prayer Life

Uh, ok, so I’ve been following Jesus whole heartedly now for about 25 years. For about the last 20 I’ve been in full-time-church-pastoring-type positions. One would think at this point that I would be consumed by prayer and filled with spiritual fire pretty much 24/7. Hmmm… that’s not exactly the case. I have kinda expected that prayer would come easier as I got older (that’s partly true in the sense that I don’t put as much pressure on myself now as I used to and I’m a bit more patient) but generally I find prayer to be as tough or tougher than it ever has been. I don’t really feel a lot when I pray... which I find odd… And then when I do pray I find myself needing to turn off a lot of voices. It takes time to get these voices to die.

I read Henri Nouwen recently admit to his prayer life being full of “dryness and darkness”. Which helps me… I guess because… misery loves company? I don’t know. Do I really feel better just because someone else feels bad? (Especially a ‘spiritual giant’ like Henri Nouwen?) Well, it’s possible... I’m hoping it’s more like I feel a bit ‘normal’. Anyhow, Nouwen said, “The real questions are, ‘What are the dryness and darkness about? What do they draw me too…?’" Well, we know that Jesus, at the end of his life, felt abandoned by God and he cried out. His body broken, his mind shattered and his soul feeling no comfort. It was in this horrific moment of emptying himself where his blood watered the seed of something new. In Jesus’ own dark time where he felt nothing, something was actually happening.

I am not Jesus. My pain is not as dramatic nor ever will be so the point isn’t to compare but to note that during my own difficulty in praying… during the times when I don’t necessarily feel anything going on… maybe I’m identifying with him a bit? Maybe the things I don’t feel are actually signs of something deeper than that which touches my senses? The lack of not ‘feeling’ God may be that He’s too great to understand. Maybe this really difficult experience of praying and turning off voices… voices that are very self-absorbed and immature… of dying to my own need to feel something… maybe that’s a small way of me of me being broken along with Jesus.

If that’s the case the only thing I can say is, “Father, break me.”


jtc said...

Well as is the case with Nouwen and you ... your honesty helps me to relate and feel better about the voids in my own prayer life (and to some you may also be a spiritual giant ... or at the very least spiritually tall) anyway ... I sometimes run into trouble when I feel like I use prayer almost like superstition ... I mean it's not that my requests for guidance, forgiveness and protection are not authentic it's just that I often get stuck in a rut with an almost systematic schedule of prayer ... which does sometimes lack emotion. I wonder if God is tired of hearing the same old requests and is like "ok I got it!" ... "I will watch over your son and your wife and so on" ... but the other part of me just cant help but pray for those things every time I say "Dear Lord ..."

The reason why we pray is simply that we cannot help praying ~ William James

jonathan foster said...

I can relate. I don't think God gets tired of hearing us though. (Although I would never say it's a bad idea to 'vary' the prayers a bit.) But I do think He cares for us more than we can imagine. Our questions about his response to our prayers probably say more about us and our lack of proper perspective than they do about Him.