After a Gothic army pillaged Rome in 410 A.D. a widow named Flatonia Proba and other widows fled to Carthage in North Africa where they established a religious community. Proba asked Augustine about prayer for the community. This is partially what he wrote:
A Christian heart has to feel the desolation of our present existence in the world, living indeed as exiles from the Lord. For we walk by faith and not by sight. Without this disposition we will not, nor want to pray…
So strive in your prayer to overcome the world. Pray hopefully, trustingly, lovingly, earnestly, and patiently. Indeed pray as a widow belonging to Christ…
For the destitution and desolation that widows experience make them the true archetype of the true prayer. So long as the human heart is on pilgrimage in this world, and thus destitute and desolate, unceasing, wholehearted prayer will then be the committal of our “widowhood” to God.
Source: Letters of Faith through the Seasons.
When is the last time you heard this kind of advice – to let yourself feel desolation and destitution – to know the uncertainty of pilgrimage in this life.
But indeed this is an axiom of prayer:
If you can answer your own prayer, you stop praying.
If you can buy your own answers, you cease to trust God with your life.
May you know the presence of God through your desolations along the long arc of your short pilgrimage in this world.