I saw two attributes in what our Lord was conveying; one is rightful prayer, another is sure trust. But yet our trust is often not complete, for it seems to us that , because of our unworthiness and because we feel nothing at all, we are not sure that God hears us. For often we are barren and dry after our prayers, as we were before, and when we feel like this, our folly is the cause of our weakness. …I am the foundation of your prayers; first it is my will that you should have something, and then I make you desire it, and then I make you pray for it.Julian of Norwich. Revelations of Divine Joy; Long Text, Chapter 39.
I’m always encouraged when I read about someone who devoted their whole life to prayer, finding it barren and dry, not being sure that God has heard them. I’m not alone then!
Henri Nouwen wrote of prayer, ‘To pray unceasingly is to channel our thoughts out of their fearful isolation into a fearless conversation with God. Jesus’ life was a life lived in the presence of the Father, whom he loved. Jesus kept nothing, absolutely nothing, hidden from his Father. Jesus’ joys, his fears, his hopes, and his despairs were always shared in communion with his Father.’ Clowning in Rome
I often think that the greatest barrier to us understanding prayer is the misnomer that somehow we are ‘down here’, and God is ‘up there’. The heart of prayer, however, is rooted in our communion with and participation in the divine nature of God. Moving from a place of prayer to God, to a time of prayer with God is the first step on a journey of placing our prayer life in the correct context. Our prayer life develops as our relationship deepens, and our relationship deepens as our prayer life becomes more established. Like a rower in a boat who feels the equal pressure of the water on both oars as he follows a straight path, it is the same with our prayer life. If our prayers are focused purely towards getting answers, we might just be missing the point and may find ourselves rowing in circles. Yes of course we petition God, but like Moses, Joel and David, in fact like all of the prophets, our petitions can be a beautiful way of opening ourselves to God’s will, trusting him in the absence of ‘answers’ through understanding that sometimes we have the answer already.