As a writer and contributor, I’ve been incredibly grateful for the Pure in Heart blog posts during lockdown. They’ve given me the opportunity to process all that I have been reflecting on. They’ve provided an opportunity to share the fruits of this time along with some hope and encouragement. But now I’m ready for lockdown to end, at least that’s how I feel. I’ve been impatient to move out of this season, and I know I’m not the only one. (Yes, I did learn a thing or two from our last blog post). And God offers me loving reminders that things won’t be done according to my plans or my ideal timeline, but He will move things when He sees fit and it will be all the more rewarding when He does. Learning to endure and persevere has been frustrating, and then I realise how childish I’m being with God, as opposed to being childlike. I’m no longer soaring on the spiritual high I was on when we entered lockdown, rather I have little desire to pray. I realise God is trying to instil in me a mature faith that perseveres in all circumstances, whether I want to or not, and I know that is the case for many of us. I know He is also calling me to a childlike restfulness and trust in this period of transition and waiting. So, I thought I’d share some advice and encouragement for those of you who can relate in any way to what I’ve been experiencing. I also want to provide pieces for your reflection, that have helped me in times of trial.
When Prayer is Dry, Pray Anyway
I have a love/hate relationship with praying when I don’t want to. On one hand, I don’t want to be there because every minute feels like an hour. On the other hand, I’m grateful because I know it’s teaching me to persevere. It also allows me to say, ‘Lord, even though I don’t necessarily ‘feel’ anything, I choose you. And I will continue choosing you’. That might sound harsh and loveless, but on the contrary, when we show up to prayer despite the fact that we don’t want to be there, we learn to love and to pray for the good of love, not for the sake of what I can get. I learn to love when it’s uncomfortable, and my love for God matures into something that is not just based on feelings alone. It is in this time of prayer that I discover a deeper intimacy with the Lord and experience His agape love. This can end up being the most rewarding time to pray, because you are no longer praying for the sake of consolation, but simply because you love God. In doing so, you also offer God the opportunity to be with you and carry you through that season. God never forces Himself on us, He allows us to freely choose or reject Him, He will only help us if we let Him. So, if you’re struggling to see God where you are, pray. He will make Himself known to you.
Reflect on Psalm 63: Comfort and Assurance in God’s Presence.
‘O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you’ (Psalm 63:1)
Confessing Outside the Box
Sometimes, it can be our unconfessed sins that are holding us back from experiencing intimacy with God or causing dryness in prayer. I’m fully aware that we can’t make it to Confession right now, and believe me, I want it just as much as you do. I’m also aware that Jesus isn’t deaf. Nor is He limited to the Confessional. In ordinary circumstances, we are obliged to go to Confession when necessary, however, in these extraordinary circumstances we can still be forgiven for our sins in light of the Sacrament. Pope Francis recently encouraged Catholics, “When you can’t go to Confession, go directly to God”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: ‘When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.’ (1452). This means that we can be forgiven for our sins now, with the promise of going to confession when possible, but until then we are still in grace with God. I encourage you, if there is any sin weighing on your heart, and it bothers you that you have not been to confession, confess directly to God, make an act of contrition with the resolution to go when possible and rest in the fact that you are forgiven. Thank God that His mercy knows no end.
Reflect on Psalm 136: God’s Work in Creation and in History
‘for his mercy endures forever’. (Psalm 136:1)
Wait in the Boat – Be Still
I’ve definitely learned my lesson with this one the past couple days. I have such a love for the story of Jesus walking on the sea. Look at St. Peter’s encounter with the Lord, ‘“Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.’ (Matt. 14: 28-29) I love this story because it is physically impossible to walk on water, and when Peter does, He is walking on faith. However, we should only do so at the Lord’s command, and so if we find ourselves in the boat waiting on the right time, then we should continue waiting on Him. I have a tendency to try and get out of the boat of my own accord, in the name of faith, without asking the Lord to bid me come to Him. I see the way in which He’s soon going to lead me but I’m impatient and want it now. And whenever I try, I end up like Peter in verses 30-31; ‘But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”’. My tendency to get out of the boat prematurely can easily see me trying to answer Jesus’ question to Peter. My desires are good, but my faith must mature. There are moments when we must step out of the boat; that moment is when Jesus bids you come to Him. Until then, ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10). Wait in the boat on His timing. When He moves you, it will be more fruitful than you could ever imagine.
Reflect on John 17: Jesus Prays for the Church
Listen to; Control – Tenth Avenue North
‘I have made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them’. (John 17:26)
Praying in a New Way
Reflect on how you’ve been praying lately. Sometimes we experience a lack of joy in prayer because Jesus might be calling us to a different form of prayer than we’ve been practising lately. You may find yourself fighting that because it calls us out of our comfort zone, and we don’t like that. It’s important to recognise that each season often requires a different form of prayer. I know for me right now I need to be reading more Scripture. Right now, the sacraments are not as accessible as I would like, but I desire to become more familiar with His voice and give Him the opportunity to speak to me. While there are times to persevere in a particular kind of prayer, there are also times when God wants to speak to us in new ways. This can be a great opportunity for us to grow, we are challenged to become more open and docile to the Holy Spirit. Try praying in a new way, whether it be reading your Bible more, praying the Rosary, silent contemplation or praying with worship music, and look at the fruits. If it’s helping you grow in virtue, persevere in that in this season.
Listen to: New Wine – Hillsong Worship, Till I Found You – Phil Wickham
The line, ‘If I trust you, I don’t have to understand’ provided a much rewarding time of reflection.
I know that waiting on the Lord seem like the hardest thing sometimes, that is simply because of our pride and distrust in Him. At this time, when we’re seeing the end of the season that we’re currently in coming closer, along with new beginnings and unknowns, don’t get out of the boat yet. Wait on the Lord. Rest in the fact that He knows best, and in the meantime, continue praising Him. For He is good, even when we don’t understand. When the time is right, He will call you out of the boat, and you will experience the joy of the Lord in a way you have not yet known.