We all hit stumbling blocks or speed bumps on our prayer journey, and sometimes we need to take a detour to get back on track. Growing in our prayer life means deepening our relationship with God, and it’s a process that takes time and patience. Sometimes it isn’t easy and we need to persevere through difficulty. Msgr. Stuart Swetland recently reflected on Go Ask Your FatherTM about the prayer problems he most commonly is asked about and how to overcome them.
“The best way of dealing with difficulties in prayer is to make sure we continue our prayer routine, being very dedicated to a prayer routine. And I don’t mean we have to do it at the same time every day, but certain norms that we need to do. Certain amount of prayer each day we need, just like if you’re doing an exercise regiment you need certain amounts of exercise each week. You may alternate each day so you’re exercising different parts of your body or different types of exercise: cardiac, building up muscle, all of that. But in prayer, you want a consistent prayer routine that is part of at least a daily and weekly regiment of prayer. And you want to stick to it,” says Msgr. Swetland.
Sticking to your prayer routine is the key to overcoming difficulties that people often face in prayer such as spiritual dryness and distractions, he explains. Another difficulty that people often face is transitioning from one form of prayer to another. “They’re used to, for example, meditating, and they start to find meditation more and more difficult. Well you keep doing it, but sometimes the Lord is leading you out of the particular prayer form you’re praying into a deeper type of prayer.”
“So for those who are struggling with transition from active meditation and finding it just more and more difficult to do, it may be a sign that God is asking you to do the prayer of quiet. This is when you just dwell on the presence of the Lord,” says Msgr. Swetland. He compares this to a married couple who, when they have gotten to know each other very well, don’t need to talk or ask so many questions. They are comfortable sitting quietly in each other’s presence.
“This is what Pope Francis is constantly referring to—allow yourself to be engaged by the gaze of Jesus. And this leads to what Teresa of Avila calls the prayer of quiet, when we’re just dwelling in the presence of the Lord and that can be a very, very fruitful time of prayer, a time when we’re deepening our love relationship with the Lord.”