Prayer — Persevere in Dryness
Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA
09/11/2007 - 23rd Ordinary Time - Tuesdsay
Jesus is our Lord and our God! God knows all things. He has all things. Everything that exists whether visible or invisible, He created. He is the Giver of all that is good because He is the Source of all good. He is our Provider.
When we want something, we pray to God. And if it is His will, He will give it to us. And since God has everything, He doesn’t need to pray and ask someone greater than Him because there is no one greater than Him. If there is, then He would not be God.
Yet, in the passage today from the Gospel, Jesus “prayed”! “In these days He went out to the hills to pray; and all night He continued in prayer to God.”
Not only did He pray, but He spent the entire night in prayer with the Father. This, He often did, spending the night in prayer.
We might ponder — since Jesus is God, why does He pray? Why does He spent the whole night in prayer if He’s God? Was He just “pretending” to be in prayer but not really praying that He wants us to simply follow His example in praying?
Jesus is both true God. And He is also true Man. He is one Divine Person with two natures: human nature and divine nature. Since He has two natures, He also has two wills: human will and divine will. Even though, He is omnipotent or all powerful by virtue of His divine will, His human will was not all powerful. That’s why He prayed. That’s why He spent the whole night in prayer before making a very important decision in choosing His apostles. So, He was really praying! He was not “pretending” to be in prayer. (cf. The Navarre Bible - St. Luke)
When we pray, what we do is make our will known to God. So, Christ, who is like us in all things but sin, also had to pray in a human way.
St. Ambrose reflect on Jesus at prayer. He said, “The Lord prays not to ask things for Himself, but to intercede on our behalf; for although the Father has put everything into the hands of the Son, still the Son, in order to behave in accordance with his condition as man, considers it appropriate to implore the Father for our sake. As St. John in his letter says, “We have an advocate with the Father.” Jesus is our Advocate. Yes, we can say He prays and intercedes for us before the Father. At the same time, He receives our prayers too and answer our prayers according to His will. (cf. Divine Intimacy, vol. II)
After we have begun a life of prayer, we come to realize that just like in everything else, there are trials in prayer. We search for God in prayer, but faith is not yet vision. And that we suffer because we cannot find God. We cannot be united to Him as we would like.
At times, it seems the Lord is hiding His face. It seems the Lord is abandoning us. It seems that we are all alone and incapable of a good thought or a good impulse or a good affection. Is He really there? Yes, God is always there hearing our prayers. He is waiting for proof of its fidelity.
St. Paul said, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought (Rom 8:26).” Prayer is a gift of God. Only God can make us capable of praying as we should. And we should be conscious of our weakness and our inability to pray. When the Holy Spirit assists us by His grace, prayer then becomes easy and spontaneous, but when He decides to hold His grace, we experience our poverty. We experience our insufficiency. We experience our coldness of mind and heart.
To engage in prayer means to deal with these “problems” but yet these “problems” or these “spiritual sufferings” has a purpose. The purpose is to purify us from immaturity in our prayer and our faith to be more mature. We learn, then, to turn to prayer with greater purity of intention — not to find pleasure or spiritual consolation but to please God and to prove our allegiance to Him.
We need to give ourselves to prayer, not only in moments of joyful and sensible devotion, but also in times of dryness, in times of discomfort, or in times that we just don’t “feel” like praying. And all this, not just for a certain period, but at all times, every day, all our life.
Powerlessness and dryness can cause us to think that it is a waste of time to devote ourselves to prayer and that we would do better to work. We can easily think this way especially when we have many obligations to do. We can easily think that it is useless to persevere in prayer. This experience was felt by St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church in prayer. This was the greatest temptation she had that it nearly brought about her ruin.
The Devil wants all of us not to pray. Because when we don’t pray, we don’t commune with God. And he likes that. But when we pray, we commune with God; and he hates that. He hates all people who pray.
So no matter how difficult we may have in prayer, the important thing is not to give up but to persevere. And I conclude with the words of Julian of Norwich who writes Revelations of Divine Love, “Pray with your whole being even though you think it has no savor for you. For such prayer is very profitable even though you feel nothing, though you see nothing, even though it seems impossible to you. It is in dryness and barrenness, in sickness and feebleness that your prayer is most pleasing to me, even though you think that it has little savor for you.”