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By Fr. James Farfaglia

4/24/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Many times we turn to God only we have fallen flat on our face.

Many times we turn to God only we have fallen flat on our face.


By Fr. James Farfaglia

Catholic Online (

4/24/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Father James Farfaglia, Prayer, Get Serious, Spirituality, Henri Nouwen

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - We all know that prayer is essential, but for many, prayer is the last thing that we do.  At times, prayer is seen as a last resort when all of our own efforts have failed. 

This pervasive attitude, so rooted in our can-do American view of self-reliance, reminds me of a charming story about a little boy who began to ride his bicycle for the first time. 

As he rode around the neighborhood, his mom watched proudly from the front porch of their house.  As the little boy rode past his house he yelled out, "Hey, mom, look no hands!"  As he rode by the second time, he yelled out, "Hey, mom, look no hands!"  Finally, as he rode by a third time, he yelled out, "Hey mom, look no teeth!"

Many times we turn to God only we have fallen flat on our face.

In his book Compassion, Henri Nouwen writes, "Prayer requires that we stand in God's presence with open hands, naked and vulnerable, proclaiming to ourselves and to others that without God we can do nothing" (page 102).  He goes on to say that "prayer must be our first concern" (page 102).

A well organized and daily spiritual life is an essential part of the Christian way of life.  Prayer is a discipline and it requires personal discipline.  As I wrote in my book Get Serious! - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics, "Discipline is essential.  You will not be able to live out a serious spiritual life without it" (page 31).
Nouwen explains that, "the discipline of prayer is the discipline by which we liberate the Spirit of God from entanglement in our impatient impulses.  It is the way by which we allow God's spirit to move more freely" (Compassion, page 103).

He continues with these helpful insights: "The discipline of prayer makes us stop and listen, wait and look, taste and see, pay attention and be aware.  Although this may sound like advice to be passive, it actually demands much willpower and motivation.  We may consider the discipline of prayer a form of inner displacement.

The ordinary and proper response to our world is to turn on the radio, open the newspaper, go to another movie, talk to more people, or to look impatiently for new attractions and distractions.  To listen patiently to the voice of the Spirit in prayer is radical displacement which at first creates unusual discomfort.

We are so accustomed to our impatient way of life that we do not expect much from the moment.  Every attempt to 'live it through' or to 'stay with it' is so contrary to our usual habits that all our impulses rise up in protest.  But when discipline keeps us faithful, we slowly begin to sense that something so deep, so mysterious, and so creative is happening here and now that we are drawn toward it - not by our impulses but by the Holy Spirit" (Compassion, page 105).

It is true that prayer is not an easy enterprise.

The spiritual life will always be a battle.

There always will be obstacles that are necessary to overcome if we wish to live a life of prayer.

First of all, many people struggle with distractions when they pray.  I have always encouraged people to be patient when they are distracted. However, it is true that distractions are rather normal, especially for all those who are beginning to develop a prayer life. 

Personal discipline, choosing a suitable place, using a good text when necessary and selecting a proper time for prayer are all important aspects when determined to overcome distractions in prayer.

Secondly, aridity is another major obstacle that people struggle to overcome.  However, it must be understood that spiritual dryness is a normal road of purification that the Lord uses in order to bring us to greater heights of the spiritual life. 

The quality of prayer must not be measured by personal feelings.  Feelings come and go.  Our personal experience of God through prayer will fill us with peace and provide renewal and strength, but it is important that we leave consolations to the will of God.

Thirdly, many people become impatient with God because they want instant answers.  God is not a computer.  Our God is a loving Father who knows all of our needs. 

Finally, probably the biggest obstacle is that most people are just too busy.  Too many people are like Martha, "anxious and worried about many things" (Luke 10: 41).  We leave prayer to the last moment of the day or when all of our own efforts fail.   

As I wrote in my book Get Serious! - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics, I honestly do not know what it takes for people to really want to pray.  Perhaps spiritual thirst is a gift.  However, we need to remember the words of Sacred Scripture.  "The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you" (James 4:8).

Persist on praying no matter what.  Persevere in your daily prayer routine and let the Holy Spirit take it from there.  If you feel that your faith is weak, ask the Holy Spirit to deepen your faith.


Father James Farfaglia is the Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, TX.  Visit him on the web at


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