Prayer of Incompetence

 

“Prayer of Incompetence

The desert is a classic symbol of the monastic life and it is particularly apt in reference to monastic prayer. It is easy to be lyrical when speaking of prayer but the reality of praying is anything but lyrical. A realistic appraisal of the experience of prayer must lead one to acknowledge that most people meet with growing dissatisfaction and frustration when they come to spend time in prayer. Normally one begins with a honeymoon period when prayer is easy and even exciting but then it becomes boring, and those who keep on trying to pray feel they are getting nowhere. Distractions abound; the imagination runs riot; they are unable to concentrate for more than two seconds; and, worst of all, there does not seem to be anything to concentrate on. Prayer appears to be impossible. This is what Cardinal Hume calls the “prayer of incompetence”. He writes: “… this, I think, is the normal experience of many of us. A method does not help; images or ideas seem to be obstacles, and yet when we abandon these we find we still have no awareness of God. It is at this point that we are tempted to give up” (22)”

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2 thoughts on “Prayer of Incompetence

  1. Tim,

    I’m not only “tempted to give up”, but for the most part have given up. And then comes this from Hebrews chapter 12, “In your struggle against sin, you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” This is true. It is also true that in my struggle to pray I have not persisted to the point of reddening my knees.

    Have you found any help for overcoming the “Prayer of Incompetence”?

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