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