“Gloomy times” can make prayer difficult

Padre Rosinski

Chaplain’s Corner

Padre Marcin Rosinski

When believers pray, we sometimes embrace those moments we wish did not exist. None of us wants to experience pain, but we cannot always avoid it. Our bodies, minds and spirits affect the way we pray. If we are struggling with misery, we can expect this to adversely affect our prayers. No one wants to feel empty and lifeless when they pray, but sometimes our relationship with God seems like a barren desert. There are times when our prayers become a pathetic, terrible and undesirable experience.

Ann Weems wrote the Psalms of Lament when she was mourning her son who had committed suicide. She cried out in rage and anguish, lamenting over injustice and her sense of loss. In her grief she transferred the emptiness of her heart into her prayers. She did not deny her anger, grief and pain, nor did she disguise her pain with false piety. She did, however, what many have done before her – she voiced her pain, trusting that God would accept her laments with His greatest tenderness.

She encourages anyone who feels some enormous loss to get close to God (however you might understand God) who is full of mercy and “shout our loud moaning pain that consumes our souls.”

Gloomy times challenge us to have faith that God will lead us through the misery of the situation, that regardless of the circumstances, we should not give up on God.

There are times when we are too weak and full of pain to cry out to God, especially when physical pain absorbs us so much that we cannot find either strength to concentrate. When that happens, others may pray on our behalf.

I remember visiting an elderly lady in the hospital. She was terminally ill; she could barely speak or move. When I sat down beside her, she whispered to me that her biggest worry at that moment was not being able to pray, and this infirmity filled her with tormenting guilt. I assured her it was normal that she wasn’t able to think about anything and didn’t have strength to pray. I suggested that her prayers could have been accepting the hardship of her illness and trusting that God knows her situation and the desire of her heart. I promised that we, people who loved her, would pray instead. This promise gave her peace.

Thomas Merton observed that when we think our prayers are the worst, they may actually be the best. This is because when we feel deep hopelessness we won’t pretend to be our own “god.” In such situations we lose the illusion that we can control everything. When pain becomes overwhelming we can only throw ourselves into the arms of God, trusting that we will get the mercy and strength to endure our pain. When we are overwhelmed by emptiness and drought, instead of running away from what causes our pain, we would be wise to take that misery and go straight into the arms of the Holy.