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Not learning how to pray

Those who pray are not those who know how to pray but those willing to be humbled at ever deeper levels of the realization that they do not know how to pray

“The paradoxical nature of prayer and meditation is not that the intention to pray and meditate delivers us from our poverty and silence; quite the contrary, prayer and meditation brings us directly to the experience of poverty in silence. We might say, in fact, that those who pray are not those who know how to pray but those who are willing to be humbled at ever deeper levels of the realization that they do not know how to pray.” – James Finley, from the audio Merton’s Path to the Palace of Nowhere

Many of us expect to get beter at prayer and meditation. when we don’t, when it gets tough, we find it difficult to continue. We find ourselves having a difficult time having internal quiet, or we find our minds are easily distracted. Or we find ourselves bored or restless to be done, to get on with life! Then we feel ashamed and discouraged by our perceived failure to “properly” pray and meditate.

Perhaps learning to pray and meditate is most fundamentally the willingness to let ourselves be, just as we are, and let go of our notions of “getting it right;” or to go a bit farther, perhaps spiritual growth and progress on the spiritual path comes by being willing to continually surrender our ideas of growth and progress, and to just let ourselves be who we are before God. Just as we are, with our distracted minds, restless hearts, and board spirits. Maybe God actually wants all of that! Maybe, just maybe, God loves it!

This entry was posted in: Stories & Life


Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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