“Never give up prayer, and should you find dryness and difficulty, persevere in it for this very reason. God often desires to see what love your soul has, and love is not tried by ease and satisfaction.”
— St. John of the Cross
The lectio reading for this morning was from the gospel of Matthew. It concerned the young man who asked Jesus about what was required for eternal life.
As I contemplated this passage, I became aware of the real tragedy. The young man knew Jesus was right but he could not give up his perceived security. What a horrible place to be. Having the understanding, feeling the conviction, and knowing it was true but still not able to make the best, the right, decision. Yes, the young man when away sad.
In times of silent prayer, one may have to struggle against wave after wave of distracting thoughts. There may (will) be times in which you do not feel the presence of God. There will be times that you wonder when the time to end the prayer will come. A person may even wonder if such time of silent prayer is worth it.
These can be times in which desolation tests one’s resolve and commitment to prayer. It is a time of spiritual struggle, confronting doubts, and avoiding the dilemmas the deceiver puts before a person.
If your prayer is but a religious practice, it may not survive this trial. If your prayer has any other motive than the deepest desire to be with God, feelings or not, it will be difficult to endure. However, if you have listened to the word of God, if you really want to follow Jesus, to learn to love Jesus, these trials endured will only strengthen your faith and increase your love.
Usually during these times of dryness, I turn to the Jesus Prayer and focus on my breath to sustain me and hold my focus during the time of silence. Sometimes I modify the Jesus Prayer from my confession as a sinner to one of declaring God’s revealed love for me.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, thank you for loving one like me.”
I repeat this over and over. I have found that no matter how dry and distant God may seem, this prayer will leave me satisfied that spending the time in silence was worth all the challenges and difficulties faced. Prayer is a gift. “Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit,” this I seek to always remember, “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.”
The young man received a direction from the Lord he would not accept and was sad. It is my desire and prayer to not let anything, especially a time of dryness, come before making my Lord first in my life. This is where I will find happiness.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Rom. 12:12 NRS)