What happens when we feel unsettled or resistant during prayer?
This question is one of the common questions that a retreat director asks a retreatant. One day, I brought this topic to my community as a spontaneous topic for conversation around the table during dinner time. Here is some of what we shared:
- We don’t always have a smooth peaceful prayer, do we? Some people think that we don’t have struggles with prayer.
- We do love prayer, but we have struggles sometimes because we are human beings.
- Sometimes we run into a stumbling block of resistance, which makes us very uncomfortable and restless.
- It is not important that we bump into resistance or have a restless experience. What is important is how to be aware of it, why it shows up, how to process it, and how to respond.
We began to list our potential or common causes of resistance or restlessness during prayer based on our own experiences or from other people’s experiences:
- Sometimes because we are so anxious about something in our life, we cannot live fully in the moment with God and ourselves.
- There can be too many noises in our heart and mind, and we cannot know how to start to be still.
- It can be that we don’t like a particular way of prayer or don’t want to pray with this group or with a person in this group.
- Resistance can be from being tired and needing more rest.
- Our own stubbornness and wanting to control things can cause resistance in prayer too. It can block our openness to God’s working in us and our flexibility to change from what we hear in prayer. Our mind can think ‘I trust in God, I will let God do God’s will in me,’ but the reality is my heart is not open.
- Sometimes the resistance is actually a nudging from God calling us to something, but we don’t have time to respond.
- It can be a new invitation from God, and we don’t want to hear or accept this invitation. This invitation may interrupt our comfortable routine or interfere in planning for our future. This invitation can open a new horizon for us, but we won’t dare embrace it because it is not in our comfort zone. The more we want to avoid, the more restlessness we have.
So, you see, sisters often struggle with their prayer life. We encounter resistance and restlessness and yet we persist in prayer. We know that God is calling us to be faithful and to trust. To trust that God is with us even in the resistance and restlessness.
How about your prayer? Do you have any resistance or any restless moments in your prayer that you have experienced recently? Have you paid attention to the underlying reason why these resistances and restlessness show up in your prayer? What do these experiences tell you? Is it possible that you are resisting God calling you to discern your vocation to religious life?
God Calling?? Come and visit us. Check out our Vocations Facebook page, or one of our other discernment opportunities, including our Come and See Weekend Retreat (September 13-15 at St. Catharine, Kentucky), monthly Emmaus Discernment group (at our Motherhouse in Columbus or on-line–coming back this August), and more. Contact us for more information.