Around this time of year, people think about New Year’s resolutions. Some of us even make them and some of us even keep them. There must have been many years when I resolved to pray more or to pray better or just to pray. I won’t embarrass myself by reporting the results of those promises in this post. Over time, however, I came up with a few magnificent excuses for not praying. Here are just a few.
If I pray regularly for a while and then stop, God will be mad at me. Here I am attributing to God my very own prized pettiness. If someone invites me for lunch on several occasions and then omits to do so, I feel angry, hurt, rejected. Apparently, in my heart, I think God is as neurotic as I am.
There are too many choices in praying. There’s the daily office; there’s contemplative prayer; there’s praying with Scripture; there is simply talking to God in my own words. Which one is best? God deserves the best. Here is an example of thinly disguised pride. Certainly someone like me, with my education and liturgical nous can only pray the best way.
I might not pray properly. I spent twelve years in Catholic school and can clearly remember pictures of saints in rapturous prayer. Eyes cast heavenward, hands devoutly folded, kneeling upright, these men and women, and often boys and girls, were clearly in a religious transport of which I knew myself to be incapable. Better get a bit holier and then pray. As Paul tells us and as I have quoted on this blog before, “We do not know how to pray as we ought…” Of course I won’t pray properly. No one will. It matters not to God.
I should save my praying for when I felt deeply moved to do so. Surely the best prayers came from deep feelings, great need or profound understanding. If I pray on a regular basis, even when I’m not “feeling it,” I might use up my prayer energy and then not have it when I need it or when my state of holiness requires it. This notion that there is just so much religion that a person is allotted has plagued me for many years. I know it’s wrong, but I’ve had trouble shaking it. It is a basic denial of God’s boundless love.
If I pray and find myself going deeply into prayer, I might not find my way out. This is my prayer-as-addiction fear and it is one that troubles me deeply. In part it is based on pride, that I am capable of some sort of profound prayer. Worse than this is the fear that prayer might change me. Yes, prayer is supposed to change us. That’s what it’s for. But am I so attached to my idea of myself that even a change wrought by God is frightening and to be avoided? It’s this inability to surrender to God that is probably my greatest block in prayer. And in life.
So as we venture into the New Year, please pray for me as I will for you … that God who loves us more than we can imagine will light the fire of prayer in all our hearts so that we will pray possibly clumsily and probably infrequently but without fear.