Prayer is not a burden. It is a way to rest.

The Virgin in Prayer by Sassoferrato, 1640-1650 (Wikimedia Commons)

Subscribe to “The Examen” for free on Apple Podcasts

Advertisement

Subscribe to “The Examen” for free on Google Play

Join our Patreon Community

This week let’s look at a common problem: becoming burdened by prayer. Often I find with some of my spiritual directees that their prayer becomes a series of tasks. Many devout Christians end up, with the best intentions, overwhelmed by the great many things that they feel that they have to do in their daily prayer, as if prayer is just a “to do” list. For example, someone might say, “Well, in the morning, I start with the Morning Offering prayer, then I read the Breviary, then I read the Daily Mass readings, then I pray a Rosary for all those people in my life who are sick, then I pray for those who have died recently.”

Each of those prayer practices can be enriching and helpful. But sometimes people feel overwhelmed by a schedule like that. Frequently people who practice these kinds of routine speak of feeling overwhelmed or burdened or even unhappy. They sometimes come to prayer with a sense of dread, rather than anticipation. In response, I’ll usually tell them to drop one or two of those “to do” tasks that they have set themselves. Or leave the most burdensome out every other day.

What might be missing is some quiet, still time with God, where one can just sit and be in God’s presence in a wordless way.

Think of your relationship with God as a friendship. If the time you spend with a friend is filled with obligations, you might feel that any chance for spontaneity has gone. You might miss some free-wheeling time with him or her. So if you’re burdened with prayer, try to let some things go. “Come to me, all you who are heavy burdened,” as Jesus says. He wants to give you rest.

[Don’t miss any of the latest writings, podcasts and videos from Father Martin. Sign up for his newsletter.]

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Bridget Taumoepeau
2 months ago

This has been very much my experience. I was so keen to have a rather rigid routine with my prayer, but thanks to a wise spiritual director I have been gently guided to more of an awareness of Jesus in all that I do - a joyous companion, which feels much more like a relationship with God, than an obligation to be fulfilled. I also remember your story of your pre- novitiate retreat when you gradually saw Jesus as a friend and your director commented that you were beginnning to pray. Thanks for this lovely article which expresses so well my own journey - I just have watch I don’t take Jesus too much for granted - I have to do MY part to keep this friendship alive.

Michael Bindner
2 months ago

I was able to pray again when I was made to realize that God was in charge and did not need my advice. My best prayer is to love everyone (including my ex-wife) perfectly and expecting nothing in return (including my ex-wife). The worst prayer is to ask God to make someone change their mind, which is the darkest of magic.

Dr.Cajetan Coelho
2 months ago

Prayer heals.

J Cosgrove
2 months ago

At noon each day I am reminded to pray by my computer/IPhone. I walk a lot in the morning, during lunch and after work. (we have a family business so I can go as I wish) So I often pray as I look around me on the walk.

A suggestion for the editors. Add “say a prayer before commenting:”

Advertisement
More: Prayer

The latest from america

Celestina Fernandes da Silva, a Catholic activist, waters flowers in front of her home in the Wapishana indigenous village of Tabalascada, Brazil, on April 3, 2019. (CNS Photo/Paul Jeffrey) 
According to priests and women religious who have worked in the Amazon for decades, the particularities of the Catholic mission in the region—especially the lack of clergy to attend to thousands of geographically isolated communities—has led them to make hard choices.
Eduardo Campos LimaOctober 15, 2019
What exactly are we celebrating on Columbus Day?
Matt Malone, S.J.October 15, 2019
Domenico Giani, former chief of the Vatican police force, holds a cross as Vatican police officers and Swiss Guards process through St. Peter's Square in September 2016. Pope Francis appointed Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti, a cybersecurity expert, as the new head of the Vatican Security Services on Oct. 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 
He takes over from Commander Giani, who resigned yesterday after taking “objective” but not “subjective” responsibility for the leaking to an Italian journalist of a reserved notice informing Vatican security personnel that five employees had been suspended from their work “as a precautionary
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 15, 2019
A Trump supporter reacts after a protester grabs the hat off his head outside the Target Center in Minneapolis, following a campaign rally led by President Donald Trump on Oct. 10. (Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune via AP)
Those who oppose Mr. Trump can make the case that supporters should change their minds, writes Holly Taylor Coolman, but to make this case glibly or derisively is to ignore political realities.
Holly Taylor CoolmanOctober 15, 2019