Prayer doesn’t always come easy. Sometimes we may try to pray, but nothing seems to “work.” We feel like our prayer is empty and that we are simply “going through the motions.”
One of the keys to prayer is recognizing the fact that prayer is a “battle” and the battlefield is in our hearts. Will we give-up and run away or fight until the last breath leaves our body?
Just like any relationship, prayer does simply not “happen” overnight. Relationships develop over time and take great effort to maintain. A man and woman do not get married after meeting just once, but develop a loving relationship over time. It is the same with prayer.
We cannot expect prayer to be perfect and never experience any difficulties. Even the saints struggled with prayer throughout much of their lives.
The Catechism uses even stronger words and instructs us to engage in a “battle” in the midst of our difficulties:
[O]ur battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have “great possessions,” we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will….The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance (CCC 2728).
Often this battle occurs against our own human nature, as the Catechism explains:
In positive terms, the battle against the possessive and dominating self requires vigilance, sobriety of heart. (CCC 2730)
As author Jim Beckman explains in his book, God, Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer:
Neither does the interior life come naturally. Why is it that so many people can push through seemingly endless obstacles to work out, but when one hurdle presents itself to prayer or spiritual disciplines, most seem to falter? I believe that if we are going to succeed in the spiritual journey, we need to approach our spirituality a bit more like our workout schedule.
We should not stop praying when an obstacle or distraction comes our way. Prayer is not going to be easy and we shouldn’t expect it to be perfect or receive divine revelations from an archangel.
Above all things, we should struggle and keep struggling. The worst thing that we can do is give-up. When we do that the Enemy of our soul is victorious.
As we continue to pray our Daily Offering and make time for personal prayer with God, let us not lose heart if it is difficult, but offer that too as a sacrifice to God for the many challenges facing humanity. We must surrender all that we are to him, even our weaknesses. Jesus alone has the ability to perfect what is imperfect and will transform our struggles and sufferings into something new.