Daily Riches: The First Rule of Prayer (Ronald Rolheiser)

“What eventually makes us stop praying, John of the Cross says, is simple boredom, tiredness, lack of energy. It’s hard, very hard, existentially impossible, to crank-up the energy, day in and day out, to pray with real affectivity, real feeling, and real heart. . . . We’re human beings, limited in our energies, and chronically too-tired, dissipated, and torn in various directions to sustain prayer on the basis of feelings. . . . Monks have secrets worth knowing and anyone who has ever been to a monastery knows that monks (who pray often and a lot) sustain themselves in prayer not through feeling, variety, or creativity, but through ritual, rhythm, and routine. . . . Too commonly, we accept the following set of axioms as wise: Creativity and variety are always good. . . . Longer is better than shorter. Either you should pray with feeling or you shouldn’t pray at all. Ritual is meaningless unless we are emotionally invested in it.[1] Each of these axioms is over-romantic, ill thought-out, anthropologically naive, and not helpful in sustaining a life a prayer. Prayer is a relationship, a long-term one, and lives by those rules. Relating to anyone long-term has its ups and downs. Nobody can be interesting all the time, sustain high energy all the time, or fully invest himself or herself all the time. Never travel with anyone who expects you to be interesting, lively, and emotionally-invested all the time. Real life doesn’t work that way. Neither does prayer. What sustains a relationship long-term is . . . a regular rhythm that incarnates the commitment. . . . . the great spiritual writers have always said that there is only one, non-negotiable, rule for prayer: ‘Show up! Show up regularly!’ The ups and downs of our minds and hearts are of secondary importance.” Ronald Rolheiser

 “Devote yourselves to prayer.”
Colossians 4:2 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you sometimes just too tired, too overwhelmed–or honestly simply too unmotivated to pray? Welcome, fellow pilgrim.
  • Are you trying to be someone who prays regularly without having a “routine” or “rhythm” or “practice?” Is that working?
  • Why not make a specific plan for daily prayer (be realistic)–and then just begin “showing up?” See what happens.

Abba, I refuse to leave my communion with you to chance. I know you’re waiting. I’m going to show up.

For more: Prayer: Our Deepest Longing by Ronald Rolheiser.

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Thanks for reading, following and sharing these “Daily Riches!” Look for my upcoming book –Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings for more of these provocative quotes, questions, and prayers.

[1] my emphasis

Sources:

Rolheiser, Ronald. “The Value of Ritual in Sustaining Prayer.” http://ronrolheiser.com/the-value-of-ritual-in-sustaining-prayer/#.WuDLHMgh2Rs.

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