September 10, 2013




All the readings together
Colossians 2:6-15
Psalm 145:1-2,8-9,10-11

In today's Gospel reading at Mass we begin with: "Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God." (Luke 6:12) Prayer was important to Jesus, for before every major event in His life we read similar words: "Jesus departed to the mountain to pray". Before He began his public ministry He prayed. Before He chose the Apostles He prayed. Before He entered Jerusalem He prayed. Prayer was important to Jesus.

Prayer is important to you. You wouldn't be faithfully reading this blog if it weren't. However, it’s likely that somewhere along the line you’ve struggled. Perhaps you've even wondered if prayer will ever get easier.

In his classic book Prayer, Hans Urs von Balthazar wrote: "Many Christians are aware of the necessity and the beauty of contemplative prayer and have a sincere yearning for it. Yet, apart from tentative efforts soon abandoned, few remain faithful to this mode of prayer, and even fewer are really convinced and satisfied by their own practice of it. ... We would like to pray, but we cannot manage it. … Our time of prayer passes leaving us distracted, and since it does not seem to yield any tangible fruit, we are tempted to give up.  From time to time we take up a book on ‘meditations’ which presents us, ready-made contemplations we ought to produce ourselves. ... Often fear robs us of the confidence to take steps on our own." (1) Sound familiar?

Many of us want to pray; we have a sincere desire for God. Therefore, we start strong. Our enthusiasm elicits a feeling of momentum. We’re excited because "something" is happening in our spiritual life. Then, we hit difficulties, and, as von Balthazar writes: "Our time of prayer passes leaving us distracted, and since it does not seem to yield any tangible fruit, we are tempted to give up." If this describes your prayer, be not afraid. Many of us experience difficulties in prayer.

According to the Catechism, struggles in prayer are common. Be on the look out for the "5 D’s":

Distractions.  The most common "difficulty in prayer is distraction." (2) We have one of our favorite Scriptures passages in front of us. It’s quiet. The setting is perfect. However, we just can’t focus. We think of work; we think of things at home; we think of anything other than God. Sometimes it can feel as if our mind won’t slow down, much less focus on God.
Dryness. Another common struggle, "especially for those who sincerely want to pray, is dryness." (3) Many of us know well the experience of showing up and wondering if God did the same. We read the Scriptures, we share our thoughts, we listen, but nothing happens. If this happens often we can feel dry, like "a land parched, lifeless, and without water." (Psalm 63:2)
Disappointment. If we can’t focus, or if we don’t hear God, we often struggle with unmet expectations. Thus, "disappointment over not being heard according to our own will" is the third most common challenge in prayer. (4) God didn’t answer your prayer; or, God didn’t answer your prayer how you wanted. We get discouraged if our expectations aren’t met.
Doubt. "In the battle of prayer we must confront erroneous conceptions of prayer … which cast doubt on the usefulness or even the possibility of prayer." (5) If distractions, dryness, and disappointment grow common we may soon doubt whether we can do it. In fact, many of us listen to the spiritual experience of others. We compare ourselves to them. We may doubt whether or not we’ll ever taken that next step in our spiritual life.
Discouragement. With doubt comes discouragement. It’s important to be on the look out for "discouragement during periods of dryness". (6) You will be tempted to give up. You will be tempted to move on to something more productive. Simply ask yourself: does that really sound like the voice of God?

Hang in there, help is on the way. If you struggle with prayer, or any of the "5 D’s" we can help. Oremus, which is Latin for "Let us Pray", is designed to help you either learn how to prayer or go deeper in your experience of prayer.

Oremus starts Wednesday, September 11 @ 6:30 PM @ Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church. Here's a snapshot of night #1:

6:30-6:40 PM: Gathering, welcome, introduction, opening prayer
6:40-7:15 PM: Teaching: "What is prayer?"
7:15-7:25 PM: Transition to Eucharistic Adoration
7:25-7:55 PM: Very intimate experience of Eucharistic Adoration
7:55-8:00 PM: Transition out of Eucharistic Adoration
8:00-8:10 PM: The next seven days, wrap up, closing prayer

Looking forward to seeing y'all tomorrow night ...

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013


This past weekend we introduced a new series: "Who is Jesus?" The core message from Sunday's homily was: "Jesus always takes the initiative". God wants you more than you want God. That's especially good news for those of us who struggle in prayer. The Catechism offers us encouragement: "God calls man first. Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face; he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him; yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer." Jesus is pursuing you; He has always been pursuing you. Be not afraid. Don’t give up. Trust that Jesus is "tirelessly" calling you to the more that you so desire.

Click here to listen to week 1 of the new series: "Who is Jesus?"

(1) Hans Urs von Balthazar, Prayer, page 7
(2) Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2729
(3) Ibid., no. 2731
(4) Ibid., no. 2728
(5) Ibid., no. 2753
(6) Ibid., no. 2728
(7) Ibid., no. 2567


Here's "example" of the kind of things we'll talk about at Oremus.