Have you taken on a new prayer commitment or devotion this Lent? Maybe it’s a daily rosary, a weekly Holy Hour, or the Stations of the Cross. Whatever it is, you’re likely to experience times when your commitment to prayer wavers. Maybe you find that your mind wanders so much that prayer feels pointless. Or you have so much to do you’re tempted to put that daily rosary on the back burner.
Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ recently discussed how to make the most of your prayer time on St. Joseph’s Workshop and offered some advice for when you’re struggling to commit to prayer.
Fr. Matthew explained that he often is asked how to make the most of particular devotions, especially Eucharistic adoration and the rosary. “There’s a lot we could say about this,” he said. “We could talk about techniques, we could talk about methods for meditation, for praying the rosary, we could talk about styles, or even booklets that you could get for helping you to use your time before the Lord well. But I would just like to make a simple observation. One that comes to mind, that maybe we often forget about.”
“I’ve been thinking about how prayer is so much a discipline,” he said. “Prayer can include wonderful experiences, but it’s something we do whether we have that great feedback or not.”
Fr. Matthew pointed out that the times when our commitment to prayer wavers, or we don’t seem to enjoy prayer as much, are when prayer doesn’t feel good. Sometimes prayer makes us feel peace, clarity, and a greater sense of communion with the Lord. Other times it makes us feel … nothing. Fr. Matthew compared the experience of praying to the experience of writing. For writers, sometimes the words flow freely and it is an exhilarating experience. But most of the time it is a matter of sitting down, writing a sentence, a paragraph, or a page, and then erasing most of it because it didn’t come out how the writer wanted.
“It’s hard,” he acknowledged. “It’s just difficult because it’s a hard discipline to practice. But the only way you get better at writing is by doing it. Of course, you also study technique, you’re formed in it, but you have to do it if you want to get better.”
“That’s what prayer is like too. We have to become so disciplined that we will do it whether it feels like it’s helping or not. So we pray the rosary when we feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And we also pray it when we feel completely arid and dry. And we feel maybe nothing inside. We go to our Holy Hour once a week when we’re so excited about it. And we also go when we’d rather do something else. When we can’t imagine how everything else is going to get done if we spend this hour before Jesus. Because prayer very much comes down to discipline in our life. It comes down to you and to me doing it faithfully. In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.”
That’s not to say that if you’re struggling to pray you need to just grin and bear it. For example, if you’re struggling to pray the rosary each day, you can pray along with the Family Rosary Across America® or use the Relevant Radio® App to download an audio rosary. It’s good to seek out help in keeping your prayer life consistent, because consistency is the key to growth.
“Whatever you do, whatever techniques and aids you use in your prayer life, what you really have to do is do it regularly, consistently, promptly,” said Fr. Matthew. “You have to do it as a discipline and then it becomes something that you love and couldn’t do without. Something that changes your life completely.”
Listen to the full reflection below: