The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Praying Like You're Feeling

I've been doing a lot of praying lately and not as much writing. Prayer can sometimes be a tricky thing. So often I try to find those perfect moments for prayer; those times when I can really focus on deep contemplation. And more often than not, life gets in the way. Work, church activities, friends, and the more mundane everyday obligations are all worthy of my time; however, they also leave me short of energy to spend quality time with Our Lord. Or so I thought.

Recently I read an article by Father Rich Rolheiser entitled Even When I Don't Feel Like It where he gives a good discussion on a better view and use of prayer. It has been one of those rare articles that has really caused a shift in my thinking and practice.

See if this sounds familiar. I kneel down to pray an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be, and while I speak the words my mind is really concerned with something else. The prayers become dry and uninspiring. Oh I try to put as much piety into the process as I can. I might even speak each word of the prayer with reverence; and I desperately try to repress the distraction in my mind, but still I'm left less than satisfied.

One of the challenges I have in my own marriage is that I sometimes spend too much time figuring out what my wife wants to hear versus sharing the authentic reality of the situation. Maybe I don't want her feelings to be hurt. Maybe I don't want her to be unhappy. Maybe I don't want her to be angry. And, yes, a lot of times I'm trying to cover my own behind for something insensitive or simply stupid that I have done.

How often do I pray to God words I think He wants to hear instead of praying the reality of my current state of affairs? I lift up my mind and heart to God with thoughts and feelings that are not my own but rather the thoughts and feelings I believe He wants me to have. Do I really believe that I'm fooling God? He knows my heart. He knows my mind. Why would I share how I wish they were versus how they really are?

As I pondered these questions the same answer kept rising to the surface. Pride. My foolish pride serves as a barrier between me and Our Lord. It is perhaps the biggest exercise in hypocrisy I do, and perhaps even the most offensive thing I do against Christ. For instead of giving my real self to Him in prayer, I give Him a gussied up facsimile.

Now I work on praying what I am feeling. If I am bored, I pray boredom. If I am angry, I pray that anger. If I am anxious, I share that anxiety. And if I am lustful, I offer that lust. If I am tired, I rest my head on His shoulder. Every feeling, even the negative ones, are portals into prayer. Since I have begun doing this, my prayer life has increased as now I'm not waiting for the perfect time for prayer, but rather praying at any given moment.

As Father Rolheiser writes:
"That's why the Psalms are so apt for prayer and why the Church has chosen them as the basis for so much of its liturgical prayer. The run the whole gamut of feeling, from praising God with our every breath to wishing to bash our enemies' heads against a stone. From praise to murder with everything in between!"

The good news for all to remember is that God takes us as we are. Redemption is the antidote for our fallen imperfections. It is these very imperfections we must offer Christ to redeem, and we can only do that if we give to Our Lord our true selves, not the self we wish we were.

(You can read more of Father Rolheiser's works at


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