Clearing a space for prayer

Daily Reading for February 7

If prayer is something important to us, then much more of our time will be directed to trying to bring about possible conditions for prayer than to actually doing it. I have several times compared the act of prayer with the act of writing, and here once again the comparison holds true. As a writer I seem to devote an awful lot of effort and time to clearing a space in which to write. I means turning down invitations to things like coffee mornings and conferences. It means trying to persuade my friends not to telephone me in the mornings. It means finding someone to do the housework that I can’t get done.

It means, on a more seductive level, refusing jobs, and friendships, and good works, and hobbies, that simply would not leave enough time and energy over.

Prayer seems to me to work in much the same way. We want the space in which to deepen our awareness of ourselves and of God by one method or another; but, much as we want it, we can still be tempted into activities which exhaust us and leave us as unsatisfied as ever. These may not necessarily be what people used to call ‘frivolous’ activities—frivolity can often feed us in unexpected ways. In fact for many Christians now it often seems to be the sheer weight of earnest and worthy duties which makes self-discovery no more than a wistful hope.

Perhaps if, collectively, we had a bit more spiritual insight, we should know that there are occasions in people’s lives when a kind of moratorium on works, even good works, is what is needed most, and that this is as much a proof of their love for mankind as feeding the hungry.

From Christian Uncertainties by Monica Furlong (Cowley Publications, 1982).

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