Saturday, December 16, 2006


I'm interested in the idea of prayerlessness or "dryness" as it has been used in church and in discussions of things spiritual. The usual response is to be somewhat critical and to take onesself or others to task for not praying enough, or not praying "from the heart." Perhaps in a tactful way, but still, to extol the lives of those "prayer warriors," to quote familiar maxims- "the family that prays together stays together," "prayer is the best medicine."

I'm wondering if these kinds of responses don't deserve the indignant outburst or surreptitious snicker behind the hand that might be more common if we weren't so worried about not appearing unspiritual. Should I really just expect myself to be able to plow on through, get on my knees, put together words day after day in some way that seems to me increasingly vapid- yet all unto God? Do we really need that kind of prayer?

What is the most honest response I can have to a lack of desire to pray?

What if I, quite simply, didn't pray?

He maketh darkness his covert. What? God does not dwell in houses made by human hands. Why should I expect to continue to feel "in the presence of God" when what my eyes are increasingly fixed on my ability to form words correctly, on the appropriate-ness of my prayer, on the frequency of my prayer, on how acceptable my prayer is to its listeners, on my willingness and desire to pray? On the fabrications and forms of the visible and sensory which, while they go a certain distance in orienting me toward the Unkowable, can't really bridge the gap.

Could my words become fewer and fewer, until blessedly, the burden of hurling requests and soulful declarations skyward, hoping desperately that they please God and echo his will, disappears and the darkness of Him who transcends these things surrounds me and says simply "Ssshhh..."

We could try to counter this prayerlessness with Scripture based admonitions and examples of people more spiritual than ourselves. But what if non-prayer is, more often than we think, the most God-oriented prayer we have?


Bob said...

Just read the following relevant quote over at The Internet Monk: "In fact, I have come to believe that evangelicalism needs nothing so much as a vast commitment to silence. (Sorry to annoy the enemies of all things Roman Catholic, but silence isn’t denominationally owned.) We are talking to some audience out there, but the vast majority of the world is so tuned out that I think we’d be scared to know just how irrelevant most of our communication is."

Leopold said...


Your questions are amazing. I will add this: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made..." I take this to mean, in part, that an awareness of anything is an awareness of God. I wonder sometimes about this when I go through my day. I have to stop myself, kick myself, when I think of how much of God is all around me that I simply am not apprehending. When I think of the dire beauty of all these things that are people... What a problem of priorities we have, and even more confounded by the vain qualifiers we feel the need to place on everything.

I am often provoked to anger by the church's unfailing ability to reduce something really amazing to a silly metaphor. It is the difference between experiencing our lives with God and the attempt to catalogue God and try to discern some bit of quantifiable knowledge about him, and which in the end speaks more to our own minds than it does to God's. I wonder if our real challenge is not to try to know the truth at all. Robert Irwin said that "seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees." Maybe knowing isn't our job; we're certainly not all that good at it. What if faith involves the real, true acceptance of what we do not know, wholly, on its own terms, and not only acceptance of it but continual interaction with it? And for a purpose higher than our own knowledge?

Well, this is to say I love what you wrote, and maybe I don't need to paraphrase it all to tell you so (and do a poor job of it at that.)

Nate said...


I'm glad you came by, and even gladder that someone gets what I'm saying! I think you paraphrased your ideas very well. What an excellent quote by Mr. Irwin. That's one thing that I've been realizing lately.