Why is prayer so difficult – desired and avoided in equal measure? I think there are three key reasons:
- Prayer is the time when we stop everything else we are doing. Often the first thing that occurs is an awareness of pain in myself or others: the physical or emotional or global pain, which is an opportunity for our healing and the healing of the world. It is the way of the Cross. Boredom, restlessness, loneliness, emptiness, tiredness, simple physical pain, unresolved grief (is it ever fully resolved?), failure and unfulfilled longing & dreams. Being aware of being a body puts me in touch with my fragility and mortality.
- Being utter failures: by definition prayer is something we cannot do; it is something God does in us. We are utterly unable to ‘make it happen’; we are utterly dependant on God. We become aware of dependence and disconnection.
- Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror (Duino Elegy no.1 by Rilke). God, the Universe, are so large and unimaginable and utterly other that we are filled with terror. This is akin to being plugged into the Total Perspective Vortex as described in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Each of these is destructive of what we fondly like to think of as our selves. They reveal our utter indigence, mutability, insignificance and dependence. Enjoy!
[Next in the series: Reasons not to pray: 4.]