I can't pray.
Well, that's not accurate. If only it was that cut and dried. In reality, the spiritual issue is exceedingly more complicated.
I can communicate with God — to God — in limited ways. I made promises to people that I would lift up their special prayer intentions on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. So I say those intercessory prayers, asking for blessings and love in a special way for those family, friends and strangers alike. I trust that God hears. I hope that He hears.
And I talk to God, conversationally, throughout the course of the day. I thank the Father for all His gifts, for the blessing of a new day, ask for the strength to face challenges and grace to receive joyful moments. I ask Jesus to accept my suffering as a sacrificial gift of love, to walk with me, to be both my brother and savior. I ask the Holy Spirit how to love God, to fill me with a lover greater than I can muster on my own.
I trust that God hears. I hope that He hears. But I feel no certainty.
Somewhat echoing Psalm 143, French Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet wrote this in his book "Meditations for Lent": "Just as the drought-stricken land seems to call out for rain merely by exposing its dryness to the sky, so also does our soul when we place our needs before God."
My thirsty soul begs for spiritual rain from heaven. Yet the frustration can keep a person from exposing their dryness. Some days, life exhausts famished person to the point that there is no energy left to intentionally place those needs for God to acknowledge.
I try the best I can in the simplest way. Each morning, I deliberately say the Our Father, and I pause an extra moment at "Give us this day our daily bread." In that pause I look forward to the gifts of any food God will send my way. But my daily bread is more than physical nutrition. I hope there will be food for my soul. The Eucharist, perhaps, the genuine Body and Blood of Jesus if I am blessed with the opportunity to attend Mass.
Prayer is just as necessary as spiritual food in my daily diet. It usually happens throughout the day.
Alas, I have been enduring a spiritual starvation for the last several months. Concentration and desire during Mass have posed a problem. Silencing my mind and heart for silent prayer has turned into a nearly impossible chore. And my spirit has felt especially dry regarding my daily time spent with the Liturgy of the Hours, specifically Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer. That endeavor generally has provided particularly inspiration and fruit most of my days for more than 20 years. For the last three months: the soil of my soul has remained parched.
It's as though I was talking on the telephone and assuming the person was on the other end listening to my every word. But I can't see them. They don't utter one word in response or carry on the other half of a conversation. I can't even hear them breathe.
I must trust. When there is no consolation, however, that can be disheartening.
I mentioned this in a conversation with a monk during my recent retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. He recalled the same thing happening to him when he was a novice at the abbey. Father Andrew said he took his concern to his abbott.
"I'm not getting anything out of the Liturgy of the Hours," Father Andrew told him.
The abbott responded: "Why should you get anything out of it? That's not the reason you're praying. You're praising God. That's the whole purpose. It's not about you. It's about God."
So I'm going to try harder not to be distressed by the spiritual aridity.
St. Teresa of Avila said: "Love consists, not in the extent of our happiness, but in the firmness of our determination to try to please God in everything."
I will put forth my best effort — which might be better some days than others — to expose my weary, desolate, thirsty soul to the sky. I will praise God when I'm not sure He hears. And I will hope that brings Him some pleasure.
Eisenbath is a member of St. Cletus Parish in St. Charles. RELATED ARTICLE(S): Man of the house | A lesson is found in the filling