If you haven’t already failed in your Lenten sacrifices, we offer you some (tongue-in-cheek) ways to further undermine any attempts to grow in prayer…
1. Be sure to bite off more than you can chew. If you are not a morning person and are not used to getting up early, set your alarm for 4 AM and expect to rise before the sun with a song in your heart. If you’ve only been praying for a few minutes each day, resolve optimistically to pray for two hours on your knees before breakfast. Always exhausted by bedtime? Surely you should commit to a 20-decade rosary right before you sleep. Voila! You’ll fail gloriously and discouragement and frustration will cripple any further attempts to strengthen your prayer life. Whatever you do, don’t start with small, reasonable practices.
2. Have no accountability. Shhhh…keep your commitments top secret. Don’t tell anyone about your plans to grow in your prayer life. After all, they might ask you how’s it is going—or even worse, join you in the journey and be an encouraging and supportive partner! The key is to answer to no one so that when you fall, nobody will be there to help you back up. Don’t even think about consulting a spiritual director, priest, or holy friend. Stay far away from small groups or prayer partners. And under no circumstances share with your spouse. This is key.
3. Do all the talking. When you do spend time with the Lord in prayer, make sure you come ready with a long list of talking points. Keep God on his toes with all of your concerns and fill Him in on all the details. Rattle off all your intentions, prayers, and your litany of requests without pausing to take a breath. Silence and listening? Absolutely not. Don’t give God the space to speak into your heart. Don’t become vulnerable and wait on Him. Make sure that you run the show. Prayer should never be a dialogue. That way, you can wonder later why God doesn’t seem to give you any answers.
4. Empty your mind of everything. If #3 (see above) doesn’t work, try this: Clear your mind of all thoughts. Sit in absolute emptiness. This includes all thoughts of God and holy things. Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious—put it all far away. Nothingness is the goal. And if the Lord begins to speak a word into your heart, stirs up a sacred desire, or brings up a Scripture verse, immediately cast it out of your mind. No better way to thwart the Holy Spirit and His inspirations!
5. Give up when the going gets tough. After the initial glow wears off and prayer feels hard, decide it’s not worth it and give up immediately. To help you from persevering through the dark times, keep these thoughts in mind: It’s just not your thing. You’re probably praying wrong. It’s not doing any good, anyway. Distractions, dryness, boredom are all reasons to quit. Expect prayer to always be easy, light, and consoling and you’ll be sure to end up confused, disappointed, self-condemning.
Ok, so we’ve had some fun here. You’ve realized by now that small, committed resolutions that fit within our state in life, accountability partners, a posture of receptivity and listening, focusing on God, and perseverance are, in fact, some of the keys to growth our prayer life. In the end, it is the Holy Spirit who draws us deeper into prayer. But our cooperation is key! So let’s not be our own worst enemy.
God bless your Lent and your desires to draw near to Him!
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