Prayer and the Failure of Existence

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5 Responses to Prayer and the Failure of Existence

  1. joelrice says:

    Sadly, I think of that quote from Hamlet:”My words fly up, but my thoughts remain below.”


    • Amen to that! I think of the pilgrim in The Way of the Pilgrim who, upon hearing a sermon to “pray without ceasing” becomes dismayed that he can’t seem to get that. So he desperately tries to find a way to pray without ceasing. Prayers must be converted to the heart. I struggle with this but I try to remind myself when praying that distractions matter not. I think of a post Fr. Kimel posted not too long ago on Fr. Herbert McCabe saying that people on sinking ships don’t worry about distractions while they pray. I think we should try to imagine ourselves on a sinking ship constantly when praying. After all, we are sinking.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      There is a basic maxim for prayer: “pray as you can, not as you can’t.” Fortunately, the Eastern tradition provides a way of prayer that all Christians can employ, even those whose “thoughts remain below”—the Jesus Prayer. See The Jesus Prayer by Lev Gillet.


    • Grant says:

      I don’t think it should overly concern you when it seems difficult to keep thoughts on God, and seem to drift, not least because God isn’t far away and unconcerned with your life, it’s situations, triumphs and troubles, it’s joys and heartbreaking sorrows, nor that of the place and world around you, with you in your cares and directly present in need around you. He is meeting you at every point, so He far from distant from you, nor are such thoughts and issues something seperate from Him that He wishes no part of or is offended if you bring them to Him or that you thoughts dwell. If that is where your thoughts go in prayer then prayer and brings those up rather than attempting to be ‘proper’ in that way before Him, tell Him what matters to you, enter into it with Him and find it being taken up into Christ.

      Something that helps me is to do as Father Aidan suggests and make use of the Jesus prayer and also other liturgical prayers, including the Lord’s prayer, in which such prayers as continuous and daily habit in morning and evening prayers can become part of your own situation and cares and helps to give voice to what you wish to say, including all the other issues within them. This is true, perhaps even particularly so when it seems dry and formulaic, and your mund is drifting or locked elsewhere, the act of keeping praying anyway and making it part of your daily life and habit, using those prayers to give voice to that action, intent and time means the become apart of your and your lufe and daily habit, and over time you notice them shaping you life and realise even when seems most dry and your thoughts are elsewhere God is with you and prayers extend through the day, the week, the months and so on.

      This is particularly true with me as I struggle with pure OCD (were it deals with purely mental obessions and anxiety) particularly scrupulosity which is focused on matters of religion, particularly incessant blasphemous thoughts and concepts, irrational and constant doubts or obessiobs or strange twists on some concept ir a conflict in my mind between two different thought concepts in which I obsess over and are at war, with in any and all my mibd getting locked on any subgle concept or connecting something else to ut and locked in a constant loop that makes it difficult to near impossible to think of anything else or function, and all the above causing great fear and anxiety as I can also see hiw irrational they are, yet my mibd remains locked there, also obessively trying to get myself to think ‘right’ and try follow a train of thought through but am unable to and get filled with thoughts I find abhorrent and loathsome, in part because peaple with this condition have low tolerance to uncertainty and don’t cope well with it.

      I don’t say this to focus attention on my problems but rather to get to this point, my mind always racing and filled with other thoughts, distractions and issues apart from the prayer I’m doing and it often feels pointless. But I keep going and even feels mechanical and dry, and have found that once even in a small way, by just keeping to morning and evening prayers and using the formal prayers to give voice and form to my prayers that as above the prayer becomes part of your life and that God is there with you and helping you, and is proud and happy with what you can do, including even the smallest acts of commitment and response to Him and His faithfulness.

      Also, prayer in our age of nihilistic consumerism is a major act of protest, of seperating yourself from the constant bombardment by advertising and the life on constant accelerating generating of wants and needs our seculartist Western system demands and economically needs as it’s devotion abs sacrifice. Prayer is something utterly opposed and it antithesis, which it attempts to push out of all areas just as being open to advertising is demanded in all areas of life, with none being seperate. That very act of bribg somewhere and a place and giving of your life there away from consumerism and to God and His way is a major act of counter protest against the nihilistic idol that now dominates much of society.


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