What if I just don’t like to pray at all?

Dear Father Joseph, maybe this isn’t the place (or blog) to post such a question, but what would you say to someone who doesn’t really *like* praying? I’m not saying it should be enjoyable or entertaining, etc., but I never feel any desire to pray, and when I do pray it’s just plain awkward, unpleasant, and motivated only out of some sense of obligation. I guess it would be a legit obligation … but I just feel like I’m talking to myself. I’ve never had any sort of spiritual experience while praying, or otherwise. Plus, everything I’ve read seems to say that petitionary forms of prayer are all but off-limits; you shouldn’t ask for anything. So I’m at a loss.

I’m intrigued (and admittedly pleasantly surprised) at your #2 suggestion … in that I would have thought that anyone reading this blog would already be praying daily, and probably for way more than five minutes. I guess I overassumed..?

Anyway, I enjoy the interesting posts on this blog. I’m sorry if my question(s) were at all offensive … I’m not Catholic. I’m just a heathen who’s sort of entertaining the idea of converting… thus reading Catholic blogs like this one.

When I first read your question, I think of many people I know who don’t particularly “like” praying at different moments of the day or during different periods of their life; they are busy and their minds are somewhere else, or they have practical worries, or they are just tired and don’t feel like it.

Your question goes a bit deeper, however, because it speaks about not liking to pray “at all.”

Within the limits of email correspondence and not having the possibility of a face-to-face meeting with ulterior questions, my best attempt at an answer for your quandary (which, by the way, is not uncommon) would be the need to delve into a deeper knowledge of God.

The age-old adage, “You can’t love what you don’t know,” is at the heart of the problem. If God is very foreign to me, or if I know very little about him, or if – practically speaking – he just has no influence in my life, then prayer is going to be difficult and it is going to seem like “talking to myself.”

I recommend getting to know God more, and especially the person of Jesus Christ. Just getting to know him – the revelation of the Father – will most certainly turn your heart towards loving him… and then I believe prayer should start to become a sharing and not a monologue.

I don’t think it is necessary to start with deep theology – just grab a book on the life of Christ and see who he is, how he dealt with others, the love he had for all men and women.

The Gospel is awesome. It is THE book with which to start. But there are also others that narrate the life of Christ in a simple yet comprehensive way and serve to enrich our understanding. I recommend To Know Christ Jesus by Frank Sheed, but there are many, many others.

The way your question is written, it seems to me that Our Lord is actually reaching out to you. You are not Catholic. You are thinking about spiritual things. You are desiring to learn more about prayer. These things don’t happen in a vacuum. So I think you are in a very favorable situation and that God will definitely bless all of your good desires.

One word about the prayer of petition. Not only is it a valid form of prayer, but the Lord himself exhorts us in many places of the Gospel to ask… and to ask many times without giving up. “Ask and you shall receive” is just an example. My favorite, though, is the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father. It is full of petitions – some for God himself (may his name be hallowed, may his kingdom come, may his will be done), some for us (give us our daily bread, forgive us our trespasses, lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil). God is the good Father par excellence, and he likes to hear his children ask. You will only experience his joy if you ask him for your needs.

In Christ, Father Joseph Burtka, LC

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