Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.
Colossians 4: 2
On days when I just don’t feel like praying, I often kindle my flickering devotion with the sage words of Samuel Chadwick: “The one concern of the Devil is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayer-less studies, prayer-less work, and prayer-less religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” (The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations) Chadwick’s words fire me up to pray!
I used to let feelings get in the way of praying. I worried about not feeling anything when I prayed. But now I remind myself that feelings are fickle and not always to be trusted. I know that even on days I don’t feel anything, God is always there. No matter my mood, God is always there.
C.S. Lewis takes up feelings and prayer in his novel The Screwtape Letters. Lewis writes as the senior demon Screwtape giving advice to the novice Wormwood on how to tempt humans to sin. Screwtape cautions about the dangers of letting his human subject pray: “Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself [God] we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so.” Screwtape advocates keeping humans from praying by keeping them preoccupied with their feelings when they pray:
Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills… Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at that moment.
People often wrote to C.S Lewis for spiritual counsel, like Genia Goelz, who had written concerned about her feelings when praying. Lewis replied:
Don’t bother much about your feelings. When they are humble, loving, brave, give thanks for them: when they are conceited, selfish, cowardly, ask to have them altered. In neither case are they you, but only a thing that happens to you. What matters is your intentions and your behavior. (Yours Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis, ed. by Paul Ford)
Every day I perform established needed tasks without thought about what I am feeling. I take out the garbage because I need to. I pay the mortgage because it needs to be done. I don’t give a moment’s thought to how I feel about chores and obligations. Doing things that need to be done make a difference in our lives. How much more does daily prayer, whether we feel like it or not!
I have a friend who had a brain tumor. Several of us established daily times to drive him to the hospital for his radiation treatments. It was really quite amazing! He would lie on a table for a few moments. He never felt a thing. And yet, something powerful was happening within him. Slowly, imperceptibly, the radiation did its work. And slowly, imperceptibly, God does His amazing work in us as we spend daily time with Him.
- In your journal, record your answers to these questions:
- How do you see your feelings influencing your prayer?
- What are you feeling about spending time each day in prayer for the season of Lent?
- What do you want to say to God about your feelings and prayer?
“You may not feel like praying. You might be tired and even bored. But God welcomes you just as you are. Spend a few moments talking with Him. God’s presence is not the same as the feeling of God’s presence and He may be doing most for us when we think He is doing least.”
C. S. Lewis, Yours Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis, ed. by Paul Ford