Struggles in the Spiritual Life


“I Simply Can’t Pray”

John seemed out the window. Streetlamps and home windows in neighboring houses lit the darkness of the approaching night time. His gaze dropped to the desk earlier than him. There, a number of inches earlier than his hand, lay the Bible. Usually at the moment, he learn from it for ten to fifteen minutes. Tonight, nothing in him needed to take action.

He thought again to the start of the day. For months now, he had attended day by day Mass earlier than work. This morning, he had barely gotten himself to church and had paid little consideration to the Mass, simply wanting it to finish.

Then John recalled the commute dwelling from work. Often, he would play a Rosary app as he drove. However today the identical sample held: he had felt no need to hope the Rosary and had listened to music as a substitute.

Seated at his desk within the silence of his room, John grew troubled. Days like right now have been turning into extra widespread. He was shedding one thing. One thing needed to change.

Every week later:

John opened the gate, approached the rectory, rang, and waited. A minute later, the door opened, and Father Reed welcomed him. John returned his greeting, crossed the vestibule, and entered the parlor, the place he and Father Reed at all times met. They sat by the home windows, their chairs dealing with one another. The afternoon solar crammed the room, and subdued sounds of site visitors created a quiet background. As normal, when he met Father Reed, John felt his coronary heart carry.

For a couple of minutes, they spoke of John’s household, his spouse, Jennie, and their youngsters. Then Father Reed provided a prayer. When he completed, he settled in his chair, smiled warmly, and ready to hear. This was John’s cue to talk.

For a second, John gazed at Father Reed. His frailty was evident, and he seemed all of his seventy-five years. However his coronary heart had not modified. His bodily sufferings had deepened the goodness and take care of others that had lengthy characterised his priesthood.

“Once I final got here, 4 weeks in the past,” John started, “I used to be pleased with my prayer. It gave the impression to be rising, and I felt that I used to be rising nearer to God. Day by day Mass, once I might get to it, made an actual distinction within the day. By some means, it felt alive. The readings spoke to me, and I sensed the Lord’s presence once I acquired Communion. The Mass helped me to be extra affected person at work, a greater husband and father, and . . . simply happier. I appreciated listening to the Rosary app once I drove dwelling from work, and I appreciated my prayer on the finish of the day, the time I spent studying the Bible and making my examen. This prayer introduced Jennie and me nearer, and we each cherished it.”

“Sure, I keep in mind you telling me about this,” mentioned Father Reed.

“However now I really feel like I simply can’t pray. It’s irritating. I don’t know what’s occurring, and I don’t prefer it.”

“Are you able to inform me extra about what’s taking place?” Father Reed requested.

“Properly, I don’t really feel God’s closeness in the identical approach. I’m going to day by day Mass as a result of I need to be trustworthy, nevertheless it doesn’t energize me the way in which it used to. I attempt to pray the Mass, however my thoughts wanders, and I really feel unhealthy about that. And to be trustworthy, I don’t actually need to pray the Rosary in the course of the commute. Some days I don’t. I pray earlier than retiring, nevertheless it’s merely to get it executed. I’m drained, and what I really need is to go to mattress and sleep.” John smiled a bit wanly, “Not a really fairly image, is it?”

“What are your days like now?” Father Reed requested.

“That’s a great query,” John answered. “The times are full. Work has been busy. Jennie has had the flu not too long ago, and she or he has wanted further assist with the youngsters. Truly, now that I speak about it, life has been just about nonstop for a number of weeks.” He paused and checked out Father Reed. “To be actually trustworthy, although,” he mentioned sheepishly, “it isn’t simply that. Soccer season has began, and I’ve been staying up at night time watching the video games, even reruns when there isn’t any recreation that night. Then I watch different issues, or I’m going on the cellphone. Generally it’s fairly late earlier than I get to mattress.”

“John, a number of occasions now you’ve talked about being drained, desirous to sleep, and attending to mattress at night time. How is your vitality as of late?” Father Reed requested.

“Not good. I’m at all times drained. Issues irritate me extra simply, and all the pieces weighs extra. Additionally, once I don’t get sufficient sleep, I don’t train. And once I don’t train, I don’t eat correctly both.”

“Do you assume that your prayer, your tiredness, and the calls for in your vitality are in any approach linked?”

John smiled wryly and mentioned, “It appears fairly apparent, doesn’t it? Sure, I’m certain that they’re.”

“Are you able to consider the rest that has modified in latest weeks which may make prayer tougher?”

John mirrored for a second. “No, probably not,” he mentioned, “I believe it comes all the way down to being extra drained.”

“If that’s so, what do you assume would possibly enable you to pray higher?”

John laughed. “You don’t miss a lot, do you? If I received extra sleep at night time, it will assist.”

“That sounds proper to me,” Father Reed mentioned, “and I don’t assume we must always assume deeper issues till we remove this one. The physique is vital in prayer, and correct care of it helps an awesome deal within the religious life. In a approach, it’s encouraging that there isn’t any significant issue in your relationship with the Lord and your prayer. Probably, you simply want a greater rhythm of life. As a result of work and household are making extra calls for now, managing your time is much more vital.”

John smiled. “I’ll give it a attempt,” he mentioned, “and I’ll let you understand how it goes.”

Sure, the religious life is simpler once we take clever care of the physique. In case you wrestle within the religious life, ask first: How is my bodily vitality? Do I get sufficient sleep? Do I train sufficiently? Does my weight loss plan maintain my vitality? If the solutions are constructive, you might presume that religious struggles, do you have to expertise them, come up from a special trigger. However it’s clever to ask these questions earlier than you presume this.

Generally, life merely makes calls for on our vitality. If John’s tempo at work will increase nonetheless extra, if his spouse’s sickness grows extra severe and long-lasting, if he himself faces bodily points, if the youngsters’s wants improve, and the like, then his vitality for prayer might be much less. God by no means asks the not possible! John, or any considered one of us in comparable circumstances, can solely do our greatest to take care of our vitality. Such expenditures of vitality, accepted out of affection for our vocation—on this case, marriage and fatherhood—carry us nearer to God, although our prayer could also be extra drained.

Even in such conditions, nonetheless, God asks us to take care of the physique as finest we will. And this may bless our prayer.

Saint Teresa of Avila writes, “Take care, then, of the physique for the love of God, as a result of at many occasions the physique should serve the soul.” Maintain the physique—why? For what motive? “For the love of God.” The soul wants the physique. Prudent care of the physique resolves many struggles within the religious life.

Such as you, I’ve a day by day rhythm of prayer. I selected it, and I adhere to it as a result of I do know its advantages. However some days—and I doubt I’m alone on this!—I really feel that “right now, I simply can’t do it.” What usually solves that is train. I train, after which I’m prepared to hope. I need to pray. The issue by no means was lack of need for prayer; it was lack of consideration to a necessity of my bodily humanity.

Years in the past, once I made the Ignatian Religious Workouts, the Jesuit who guided my group mentioned, “For many people, having a religious life comes down to at least one factor: attending to mattress on time.” Sensible phrases!

In Ignatian phrases, John’s subject is nonspiritual (that’s, pure, human, bodily) desolation (that’s, heaviness of coronary heart) brought on by a diminishment of bodily vitality. The treatment is clear.


This text is tailored from a chapter in Struggles in the Spiritual Life by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, O.M.V. which is on the market from Sophia Institute Press.

Artwork for this submit: Cowl and featured picture used with permission.

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