When Prayer Time is a Bust (my recent dud)

All the ingredients were there for a splendid time of reflection, worship, and prayer. A beautiful unseasonably warm day, new blossoms, and a perfect metaphor for life: A Prayer Labyrinth.

It didn’t help.

I felt restless and distracted. Yes, I could appreciate the goodness surrounding me. I could also grasp the spiritual significance of the nearby metaphors and analogies. Yet, I didn’t have a time of felt connection with God. The word “dud” comes to mind. I didn’t get the experience I thought I would; and it all seemed ordinary and uninspired.

Here are some images I took during my time there. You have to admit, it was a delightful scene.

What this means:

Just a few thoughts…maybe you have some ideas too.

If God is a person (…is a Being, not just an impersonal Force, but rather has a personality, and is capable of relationship), then I really can’t expect God to follow a predictable formula like he is a math equation.

My other relationships function in a similar way. They aren’t clear cut and palpable. They are more opaque and protean. I wonder if God switches things up precisely so we don’t depersonalize him, (among other reasons, I’m sure).

In biblical narrative this rings true. The Hebrews are rescued by God in a different manner almost each time. Sometimes it was pitchers smashing that started the process, other times horns and shouting. Sometimes it was just typical military tactics.

I was okay with the fact that the spiritually nourishing experience I had at the Jesuit Retreat Center was nothing like my (seeming) dud of a prayer experience this time. In the past it might have felt like abandonment. I might have seconded guessed myself, or my God. I see the nuances now, perhaps. I can still believe God is there, and God is good, even when I don’t sense God’s presence. It would be the same way with a dear friend, or my spouse. If I had a blah sort of time with a friend, I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that the friendship didn’t exist. If I didn’t sense my husband was in the house, I wouldn’t assume we weren’t married.

When was a time when God didn’t show up when you thought God would?

Here’s a previous post explaining a prayer labyrinth. Have you ever used one?

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2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Another friar said to him: “Father, what can I do to attain to greater fervour and love of prayer? for when I go to pray I am hard, cold, dry, and without devotion.” Brother Giles answered him thus: “A king has two servants: one of them has armour of proof, and the other has none; both desire to go forth and fight against the enemies of the king. He that is well armed enters into the battle and fights valiantly; but the other, who is unarmed, says thus to his lord:’My liege, you see that I am unarmed and defenceless; but for your love I will gladly enter into the battle and fight there all unarmed as I am.’ Then the good king, seeing the love of his faithful soldier, says to his servant: `Go with this my true follower, and provide him with all the armour necessary for his defence, that he may enter securely into the conflict; and emblazon his shield with my royal bearings, that he may be known as my loyal knight.’ And thus oftentimes it cometh to pass, when a man goes to prayer, that he feels himself to be naked, indevout, cold, and hard of heart; but when he puts a force upon himself, and for love of our Lord enters boldly into the battle-field of prayer, our loving Lord, and King, beholding the gallant bearing of his faithful knight, gives him, by the hands of his ministering angels, fervent devotion and good will. – “The Sayings of Brother Giles,” from “The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi”

  2. Great question. My answer reflects your experience. When I was expecting or wanting some giant bit of wisdom or some deep,y significant experience, I’ve been disappointed. And then, the whisper grows, and that presence is a calm roar I scant ignore, when I’m least looking.

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