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.
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.
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.
For today’s readings, click here.