There’s probably a good chance there are others, like me, who get bogged down in their everyday attempts to pray. But not giving up on prayer when the going gets tough is the only real solution to overcoming dryness in prayer.
Everyone who prays regularly probably goes through dry periods in their prayer life. I have been through such periods myself. But I’ve come to believe that God, although not willing it directly, allows these dry times for our own growth. I have found that if I persevere I can overcome these periods, which can lead to a deeper prayer life that might not have come otherwise.
God Can Help
To put it simply, if you are having a problem when you pray, let God know about it. I have found that being honest with God is the best way to go. When I am struggling with prayer, I tell God the truth. I tell Him that I am having a problem praying, or that I cannot think of much to say. I’ve even told Him that I am bored with prayer or that I don’t feel anything happening with silent prayer. In other words, I tell God I want and need help in desiring to pray and learning how to pray better. Fortunately, help is available.
It says in Romans 8:26 “In the same way, the Spirit too, comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” Asking God for help lets Him know that prayer is important to us and we desire to grow in it.
Prayer has traditionally been defined as an opening of the heart and mind to God. Therefore, the more we grow in prayer, the more of our hearts and minds we can offer to God. And the more of our hearts and minds we offer to God, the closer we can get to Him.
Be on Time Everytime
I once heard a homily at Mass where the priest likened prayer to keeping an appointment with God. I never forgot that advice and practice that habit to this day.
For example, I am not really a morning person, so when I wake up, I have to allow myself time to actually wake up. I devote time to scripture and prayer after I’ve had breakfast. I have a set time and place for prayer and I have developed a routine that has become a regular part of my life. Now if a morning goes by without that set routine, it seems as if something is wrong or missing from the start of my day. It works for me and can work for you as well.
Some things take Time
But just because we desire to pray and set a time aside to do so, does not mean that growth will come right away. At least it did not for me. Learning to quiet down and to put me into God’s presence through prayer is an effort that takes practice.
As it says in Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” I have learned that wanting to do this and actually doing this can be two different things. At first, calming down and sitting still seemed like getting ready to take a nap during the day, which is something I never do. But practice can make perfect if we are patient. Quieting down is the one thing that is essential to prayer in my life.
Silence is Golden
I do not have any children, but I do have friends that have children, and I understand that with kids around sometimes finding a ‘quiet’ place is not going to be possible. Not to worry. There is a solution. We can learn to quiet down on the inside. With God’s help, we can learn to focus on His word, His presence in that word, and His presence within us.
My prayer life functions much better without any distracting sounds, so for me, that means no television or radio or cell phone or anything else. I like to sit outside and pray when the weather allows. While I pray I enjoy the peace and joy of nature with its Creator.
Armed with faith in God’s presence and His desire to have union with us, I can know that what I am engaging in is not only possible but real. While the world might say, ‘show me and I will believe you,’ God says, ‘believe me and I will show you.’
When I reach out to trust God I find that He keeps His end of the bargain. God is faithful and will always give us what is according to His will for us. And that includes the ability to both seek Him and find Him in the quietness of prayer.
Keeping a prayer journal can also help overcome dry periods. I keep a notebook and pen nearby when I pray, and write down any inspirations that may come. The inspirations not only help at the moment but are useful to look back on as time goes on.
Seek and You Shall Find
If we do not seek something it is unlikely we will find it. Simply expecting something to suddenly appear for no reason at all is not very rational. But God promises that if we do seek Him, He will allow us to find Him. It says in Proverbs 8:17 “Those who love me I also love and those who seek me find me.”
The truth of the matter is that we were created by God, for God. He wants us to seek Him and find Him. God created us to pray and Jesus taught His disciples to pray. When you really get right down to it, prayer is mandatory.
When His disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus responded by telling them, “When you pray . . .” [Luke 11:2]. Notice that He did not say if you pray, or when you feel like praying. By using the word when, Jesus is instructing us that our relationship with God depends on this activity to grow and flourish, and we need to realize that.
Grow in Love for God
One sure way to overcome dryness in prayer is to grow in love for God. It says in
1 John 4:7 “ Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.”
When I feel that God is distant or that I cannot feel his presence, I ask Him to help me to feel His presence. And in times like that, I have been inspired to think about all of the detail that went into my creation.
God did not just give us eyes to see with, but color vision as well. Life would be boring if everything were in black and white. God did not just give us a mouth to eat with but gave us taste buds as well. Eating would not be pleasurable at all if we could not taste our food.
God did not have to give us any of these sensory pleasures, but He did. I think this is because He wants us to know how much He loves and cares for us. And He delights in us when we seek to respond to that love.
Prayer Keeps us Connected
Prayer connects us to God’s love. It keeps us connected and leads us through the desert periods of our lives when God seems distant and does not have anything to say.
Think about who is listening to your prayers. Think about the eternal plans He has for each one of us. Think about the joys of heaven and imagine if you can what it will be like when seeing the beatific vision and being in the company of Jesus and Mary and the angels and saints.
Finally, think about being with your creator, who willed you into existence. Such love as that can overcome the dry spells in our prayer lives if we are patient and persistent and do not quit. I know this from my own experience and I would guess that I am not alone.
Our prayer lives might be dry sometimes, but if we work at it like it is something very important to us, it will not stay dry forever. God will see that we not only seek Him but do so repeatedly and enthusiastically. And in finding Him, that is usually all it takes to get His life-giving waters of grace flowing again.