I try my very best to spend some time in prayer when I get to the Forefront Office in the morning. It's nothing lengthy or spectacular. I read some. I pray some. I spend some time in silence. I journal. I'd say, on average, all of this lasts about 30 minutes.
My one bedroom, one bath, 800 square foot apartment can get particularly crazy in the mornings with two children waking up and two parents getting ready for work. I am also not my best self when I wake from sleep. I am often moody. I just want time alone. I often enter my prayer times at the office feeling selfish, guilty, and knowing that I could have been a better human that morning, but failed.
There's a 14th century text called, "The Cloud of Unknowing." The author is unknown. In the book he writes about a "dark cloud" that is ever between himself and God when he tries to pray. The main theme of the book is that the practitioner of prayer is to pierce this "Cloud of Unknowing" by understanding that he is loved by God without conditions.
Do you ever feel that way when you try to pray? I sure do.
Whether you are a novice in the world of prayer, or an expert practitioner, we all go to pray at times and feel a wall, a barrier, or a cloud between us and God. The heavens may seem an unyielding sheet of bronze above us.
This is normal. After all, we are human. We get lost in thoughts, ambitions, and desires- many of them contrary to what we know God wants from us.
What I am learning is exactly what we read in "The Cloud," that the barrier is a natural bi-product of a life of distractions. But it is not a penalty, it is a gentle teacher. It is there to remind us that what we bring to God is only our naked selves. God invites each of us to commune with him by grace. We do not pray to earn something. We pray to understand that we are loved.
This is the only way that we will ever "reach" God in times of prayer. It's about remembering that whatever we've done, no matter how moody and self-centered we are, that we must leave those things at the gateway of prayer and enter, knowing that we are loved without conditions.
Knowing this is the seed of all good faith and spirituality.
If you struggle with prayer, I'd like to challenge you embrace that struggle. Just do it anyway. God is inescapable. Our guilt, our shame, our moods, and all that we loathe about ourselves just might be something we are so keenly aware of in the presence of God because that is the point - to understand that we are infinitely loved as we "are." Nothing more. Nothing less.