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On not enjoying prayer

Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Bede Jarrett OP writes about 'unattractive prayer':

There is some incompatibility in the inner life between sensible devotion and the depth of love. It is suggested to us that only when the sensible devotion has died down, gone out, will the real spiritual life come into its proper relationship to the whole man. Man, therefore, needs the fusing into one of his whole being. So long as he retains his devotional fervour in its physical sense, he has little chance of being able to hold to the Spirit. His upper surfaces are too engaging for him to be able to realize his lack. All goes so well with him that he does not see how ill it all is. There is the danger of mere externalism, the child's spirit of prayer that cannot hold out against the pressure of life and its stings ...

We accept it, then, as a principle of the life of the soul that it is expedient when the merely emotional side of religion gives way to something deeper, because only with the dying down of the emotional side can the other be liberated - the advent of the Holy Spirit. That this should be so in the world of the spirit is natural enough, for here above all we need to guard against the intrusion of self and of self-complacency. Now, it is abundantly clear that, if we did enjoy prayer always, we should be with difficulty persuaded from praying always, and yet our motive in so doing might very easily be not supernatural or unselfish but human and selfish. We might easily give ourselves to prayer because we enjoyed it. That would be a poor motive, for we would be seeking not God but self.


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