PART IV: CHRISTIAN PRAYER
Section One: Prayer in the Christian Life
Chapter 3: The Life of Prayer
Article 2, The Battle of Prayer
II. Humble Vigilance of Heart
Facing difficulties in prayer (cont’d)
§ 2731 Another difficulty, especially for those who sincerely want to pray, is dryness. Dryness belongs to contemplative prayer when the heart is separated from God, with no taste for thoughts, memories, and feelings, even spiritual ones. This is the moment of sheer faith clinging faithfully to Jesus in His agony and in His tomb. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). If dryness is due to the lack of roots, because the word has fallen on rocky soil, the battle requires conversion (cf. Luke 8:6, 13).
Facing temptations in prayer
§ 2732 The most common yet most hidden temptation is our lack of faith. It expresses itself less by declared incredulity [disbelief/skepticism] than by our actual preferences. When we begin to pray, a thousand labors or cares thought to be urgent vie for priority; once again, it is the moment of truth for the heart: what is its real love? Sometimes we turn to the Lord as a last resort, but do we really believe He is? Sometimes we enlist the Lord as an ally, but our heart remains presumptuous. In each case, our lack of faith reveals that we do not yet share in the disposition of a humble heart: “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5c).
§ 2733 Another temptation, to which presumption opens the gate, is acedia. The spiritual writers understand by this a form of depression due to lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, carelessness of heart. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). The greater the height, the harder the fall. Painful as discouragement is, it is the reverse of presumption. The humble are not surprised by their distress; it leads them to trust more, to hold fast in constancy.
III. Filial Trust
§ 2734 Filial trust is tested – it proves itself – in tribulation (cf. Romans 5:3-5). The principal difficulty concerns the prayer of petition, for oneself or for others in intercession. Some even stop praying because they think their petition is not heard. Here, questions should be asked: Why do we think our petition has not been heard? How is our prayer heard? How is it “efficacious” [effective]?
Why do we complain of not being heard?
§ 2735 In the first place, we ought to be astonished by this fact: when we praise God or give Him thanks for His benefits in general, we are not particularly concerned whether or not our prayer is acceptable to Him. On the other hand, we demand to see the results of our petitions. What is the image of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to be used? or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Tomorrow – Why do we complain of not being heard? (to be continued)
(Part IV, Section 1, Chapter 3, Article 2 – to be continued)
[Editor’s Note: The abbreviation in today’s posting is noted below.]
- “cf.” – “confer [compare or refer to]”