March 17, 2008

Nah, I Don't Feel Like It

I remember how when I was in preschool, one of my classmates taught me this line, "Nah, I don't feel like it." It was a way to turn down a demand or offer, and very useful I found out. In a very real way, though, this part of my own early learning represents an important element of our culture: what matters is what we feel like doing. And we shouldn't have to be bothered by what we don't feel like doing.

It's always been a struggle for me in prayer. If I only pray when or because I enjoy it, or worse, because like the idea of prayer, or still worse, because I like the idea of myself as a prayerful person, then my prayer is only a self-devotion. This is what it really means to take God's name in vain. That's why the "night of sense" is a real gift of grace; when the Spirit removes from us the natural interest, desire, and gratification we receive in prayer, then we find out if we really love God for God's sake alone.

This isn't to say that a natural interest in prayer and devotion isn't a good thing, or that it shouldn't make us feel good. If they get us praying in the first place, they're good. But we need to notice that when God takes our interest and "feeling like it" away, this is actually a grace.

When this "night of sense" happens, we have two choices. We can panic over the consolation and apparent fulfillment and good feelings we seem to have lost, and run to fill ourselves up with our drug of choice instead. This is what it means to go back to Egypt. Or we can trust in the God we cannot see, and believe that we are being led obscurely through a place where our feeling have become a desert.


MikeF said...

Wonderful! Thank you so much for posting this so powerfully. The "going back to Egypt or trusting the Lord in the wilderness" bit is a choice every day, it seems to me, and we cannot be reminded of it often enough.


tara said...

thanks so much for these reflections! they are always so inspiring! since i'm not able to get to daily Mass as much as i would like and am usually only able to go to daily mass on friday and saturday mornings, these reflections are a real treat.
i like this one on prayer. yes, sometimes it is a struggle to pray or even a struggle as we're in prayer. i have definitely been through the "night of sense", as you describe, many times. but, one important thing i think i'm learning is to never give up. there are many ways to pray and i think that we sometimes have to go through the "night of sense" to discover how we should be praying. i don't think, as adults, that we should still be praying as we did as children. (although, there is just one daily prayer that i pray daily to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that i've prayed since i was a child. i've always had a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus since i was seven years old.) at this point in my life, i enjoy praying in some different ways: morning prayer with the Capuchin Friars and parishioners at Sacred Heart is a way i like to pray - i feel a very deep connection to the church as a whole when i pray with them like this. i only get to pray like this one or two mornings a week, but it's a nice way to pray. monthly nocturnal adoration is another way i like to pray. you can always pray in different ways when you are adoring the Lord - you can talk to Him, listen to Him or just be still in His presence.
and there are other little ways that i pray in daily life. the Mass is one of the highest forms of prayer because it unites us with God. if people understood this, Mass would be crowded every day of the week - we would have such a desire to go to Mass as often as possible! i think that if we keep in our mind, heart & soul that when we pray we do it for the glory of God, then we will have PEACE.