In Ronald Rolheiser’s book, Prayer, Our Deepest Longing, he writes:
“Prayer is easy only for beginners and for those who are already saints. During all the long years in between, it is difficult. Why? Because prayer has the same inner dynamics as love, and love is sweet only in the initial stages, when we first fall in love, and again in its final, mature stage. In between, love is hard work, dogged fidelity, and needs willful commitment beyond what is normally provided by our emotions and our imagination.
Prayer works in the same way. As we grow deeper and more mature in our relationship to God, just as in a relationship to someone we love, reality begins to dispel an illusion. It’s not that we become disillusioned with God, but rather that we come to realize that so many of the warm thoughts and feelings we believed were about God were really about ourselves.
Disillusionment is a good thing. It’s the dispelling of an illusion. What we thought was prayer was partly a spell of enchantment about ourselves. When that disillusionment sets in – and this a maturing moment in our lives – it is easy to believe that we were deluded about the other, the person we had fallen in love with, or in the case of prayer, God. The easy response is to back away, to quit, to see the whole thing as having been an illusion, a false start. In the spiritual live, that’s usually when we stop praying. The opposite is called for. What we need to do then is to show up, just as we did before, minus the warm thoughts and feelings: bored, uncertain, and stripped of our enchantment about ourselves. The deeper we go in relationships and in prayer, the more unsure of ourselves we become, and this is the beginning of maturity.
It’s when I say, “I don’t know how to love,” and “I don’t know how to pray,” that I first begin to understand what love and prayer actually are.”
Thus we pray:
Friend Jesus, I now confess that I don’t know how to love or how to pray. I come to you ever a novice, a journeyman, a part-timer. I come disillusioned and disenchanted; I am here wanting to be the real I before the real You.
Closest Confidante, I didn’t expect that You would reveal this much about me, as You were revealing so much about You. I didn’t understand that I wanted it to be all about me being the centre of Your attention – and then when I found that I was – I was horrified by what You were unveiling. The deeper I went into relationship and prayer, the more unsure of myself I became. Who can blame me? You don’t.
Amigo, I thought the journey we were taking together would always be in the excitement of first love, and when I thought you had left me high and dry, I didn’t know you were waiting patiently… silently… faithfully.
Old Pal, now that I notice you, I deeply admire your commitment to me: your are faithful, even when I am faithless; you are loyal, even when I have been disloyal; you are trustworthy even when I don’t step on to the bridge of your love.
This is me showing up and wanting more of You. This is me wanting to understand more of love and prayer. This is me in loving prayer. Amen.
This theme that the experience of prayer has some similarities for novices and saints alike, might be explained by Thomas Merton in Contemplative Prayer:
“One cannot begin to face the real difficulties of the life of prayer and meditation unless one is first perfectly content to be a beginner, and really experience himself as one who knows little or nothing, and has a desperate need to learn the bare rudiments… We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners all our life!”
Therefore, as a beginner… begin _________