By Anna Lucia.
The clock approaches four o’clock and I walk into the chapel, happy to have a few minutes for prayer before I am off to my late afternoon class. I settle into the pew, look up at the crucifix, and I draw a blank. I am at a loss for words and decide to simply relax in the Lord’s presence. As I sit before the tabernacle, I feel restless and agitated. After what feels like an eternity, I look at my watch; only two minutes have passed.
Since returning to the world, prayer has proven difficult; very difficult. Have I forgotten how to pray? This seems to be a ridiculous notion, as I spent hours a day praying in the convent. I still remember the various prayers that comprise the rosary and the Divine Office. I manage to say a morning offering before my feet hit the floor at the beginning of the day and sing the Salve to our Lady before I close my eyes at night. The more I ponder this question, the more I realize that the problem is not forgetting how to pray. Rather, the problem at hand is one of trust.
In an ideal world, prayer would be the simplest part of our day, as it is spending time with the one we love. What happens, however, when the one we love breaks our heart? We might not want to spend time with that person and may have difficulty trusting that person again. That is what happened to me when I returned to the world. Prayer became difficult because prayer necessarily implies a relationship with the Lord. A relationship with the Lord implies trust. I had difficulty trusting the Lord because I gave Him my heart when I entered the convent and it felt as if He shattered it to pieces when I left. I was afraid that if I placed my trust in the Lord, then I would get my heart broken again. I knew in my head that the Lord is love and mercy itself, and that He would never lead me this far just to abandon me. However, I found it difficult to know that reality in my heart.
A wise friend recently told me that a lack of trust is simply forgetfulness. It is easy to remember the times our friends disappointed us and to hold a grudge. We get so caught up in our anger and disappointment that we quickly forget the times they have remained faithful. The same principle applies to our relationship with the Lord. While we may feel disappointed and hurt, we must recall all the times the Lord has remained faithful, throughout the day and throughout our lives.
Reflecting on God’s fidelity will help us realize that Our Lord is a good and trustworthy Father. As love itself (1 John 4:8), God could never hurt us or abandon us in our time of greatest need. It would be totally and completely against His nature to do so. Everything happens for a reason, even if we cannot yet see God’s reason behind these unknowns. For example, parents tell their children to eat their vegetables at dinner. A little girl does not know why her parents insist that she eat the spinach on her plate. Only her parents know that the spinach contains the nutrients necessary for the child’s growth and development. Similarly, we may not see why the Lord called us to enter religious life and return home. However, this apparent detour is all part of His divine plan for our lives. God has not abandoned us, but has been holding us by the hand, leading us every step of the way.
WOW! I’ve never thought of it this way! Before entering, I spent hours in prayer, and now I’m lucky if I get to Daily Mass everyday. My community’s main Charism/Apostolate was Adoration. I still love Adoration, but what used to feel like 5 min (my Holt Hours) now feels like an eternity, and I hardly go because it is now a struggle for me. I’m glad that someone else is in the same boat.
Wow, thank you for this! Really gets to the heart of it for me! I keep getting frustrated that I can’t pray like I used to, like I seemingly don’t know how anymore after I left. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has felt this way! It really is hard to deal with feelings of betrayal and distrust of the Lord after being called out of the convent, but one of the things that others have the hardest time understanding. I definitely needed to hear this because I’ve been really convicted this past week that I need to put more effort into my prayer life. Thanks!
This is so beautiful! Thank you for this reflection!
You have put to words the reality that I lived through the past two years, especially the first one. With the guidance of my spiritual director, I took a “break” from periods of mental prayer longer than about 5 minutes for awhile. It’s hard to believe when it is said, but there is truth in the oft-said “time heals all wounds.” I want to encourage other LL readers that if right now it is hard, give yourself a break (with proper guidance), find other ways to maintain your connection with the Lord, and when you hear Him sweetly calling to “come away and rest awhile” in a period of mental prayer, do not be afraid to then take it up again. As Teresa said above, it is one of the things that others have the hardest time understanding, which is why I am so grateful for the LL community. I will pray for all reading this post and its comments to keep the hope that they will again be able to pray.
Thank you so much for this. I am new here. I returned to the world the end of June after three years in a Hermit community. this is very hard. I have been distressed by my inability to pray. I am so grateful for the comments and the post. It does help me not to be as hard on myself.
God reward you for this blog, and this site.
I feel for you concerns regarding your personal prayer lives. However, have any of you considered you “problems” in praying might actually be that next step in prayer, i.e. affective prayer bordering on true contemplation? Stepping higher on the ladder of spirituality can often seem arduous, and being in the middle of ascending can FEEL like you are falling away. But do not despair! You are children of God! Either way, God loves you for you, and He desperately wants a relationship with you. He wants it so deeply for us that He sent us His only son, Jesus, to be our teacher, our Lord, and our Savior. Please don’t give up hope. You may actually be closer to “touching the face of God” than you realize.