Getting out of a prayer slump this Advent.

Nativity of John Baptist, 15 c, Hermitage

When a basketball player encounters a shooting slump, he does not stop shooting. Rather, he perseveres, and continues lobbing up the ball. He trusts that sooner or later he will emerge out of this unproductive period, by “keeping on keeping on.”

Sometimes we face a praying slump, too: We encounter a period of stasis, of non-productivity, of ineffectiveness. We emerge from our spiritual burrow and do not feel refreshed, or enlightened, or enthused. We just feel . . . dry, unproductive, and empty. In our minds, our prayers are missing the mark.

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I imagine that Zechariah experienced a similar sort of slump during the months-long sentence of silence imposed on him because of his failure to trust God’s promise that his aged wife Elizabeth would bear a child. (No Marian “handmaid of the Lord,” he!) To an outside observer, it may have appeared that Zechariah’s life was at a standstill. But as he served his term of mute isolation, faithfully persevering in his duties of prayer and priestly service, he had plenty of opportunity to reflect (in silence, of course!) on his beliefs and actions. And underneath the surface, God was working to instill trust and obedience in Zechariah’s heart.

RELATED: Read all of our Advent reflections for 2016

When we hit a slump, the best way forward is usually to practice patience and demonstrate fortitude, to trust that God is at work even if we cannot sense it. As the Dominican priest Gerald Vann observed, “We live our lives at many different levels; and the events on the surface we can see and assess, but we may know little or nothing of what is going on deep down beneath the surface.”

Almighty God, Grant me the fortitude I need to endure the dry times and the patience I long for to await the healing and restoration you have promised. Amen.  

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Bruce Snowden
1 year 9 months ago
Jesus and Blessed Mother are probably the only two persons is all history who never had "praying slumps," even though both had human natures. Jesus' fortitude in the face of grave adversary was above heroic. Consider what happened to him . In the Garden of Gethsemane after a Son/Father talk, things went from bad to worse, so much worse that he ended up executed after being beaten and brutalized by soldiers mocking him, slapping his face, spitting on him and making him a "Fool King" with a Crown of Thorns. Then on the Cross suffocating from inability to take deep breaths due to impalement and gross body weakness from loss of blood, moments before death he cried out "It is finished!" prayerfully and trustingly giving himself to his Father! Blessed Mother Mary wasn't far behind in her agony, seeing her son in misery, no doubt prayerfully asked God as all good parents do seeing one of their children suffering, to let them suffer instead! And as CoRedemptrix she did so with him! What a joy for her three days later, when Jesus stopped by for breakfast, so to speak, just Resurrected! Mother Mary gave her Boy a happy high five saying, "Son, good job! I've been waiting for you!" As with Jesus, her fortitude paid off. My prayer slumps are frequent. Repetitiously as posted earlier, once on my way to Mass in a down mood suffering from what I call, "prayer fatigue" which can happen when one imagines prayer isn't being answered despite perseverance, I came across a Praying Mantis, kneeling as if in prayer, its normal position. I looked at it and my head began to clear as I imaginatively recalled Jesus' words, "Pray always and do not lose heart." Suddenly I was good to go and stopped feeling sorry for myself. God speaks in whispers and he whispered through the presence of a small insect and my prayer slump was over - at least for then. Thank you Jesus! A simple story in too many word I fear, showing once again that as my wife has been saying for fortynine years and seven months, I'm "Longwinded!"

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