Busted Halo

Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.

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July 31st, 2012

I Don’t Feel Like Praying


I feel grumpy. And I mean truly grumpy. I can hear the tone of my voice when I talk. I listen as pointed comments slip out of my mouth with the intent of making others feel bad or criticizing them. And I can’t just blame it on being pregnant — have I mentioned that I’m pregnant? For a while I have not been able to shake this cloud that has been hanging over my head. I have been blaming it on being pregnant, which might have a little to do with it. But I’ve finally owned up to the fact that I am feeling pretty joyless right now because I haven’t seriously prayed in a long time. I mean I’ve gone to Mass every Sunday and said prayers with the girls but I have not purposely sat down to pray or do anything devotional in about a year.

I work at a Catholic school. There is no reason for this. I drive by the Blessed Sacrament Chapel that is open 24 hours a day at least twice a day. I could take a one-minute walk at lunch and be at a Marian grotto. Heck, our school is covered in images of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I have my Liturgy of the Hours book on my desk (with an inch of dust on it). I have not been able to get over this prayer slump. More like prayer canyon.

Obviously praying does not instantly make a person happy or fix everything that is going wrong. What praying does is that it puts you more in tune with God. Dorothy Day used the phrase the “duty of delight.” Even when things were going terrible and everything that she was working for seemed a failure and miserable, we, as humans, have the duty of finding delight, finding joy in our lives. She worked with homeless people, people with mental illness, people with addictions. Most days were one step forward, two steps back, but she knew she had the duty to find delight in her work and the people around her.

While praying isn’t some magic pill that gives us rose-colored glasses, it does help us see the world more like God does. I think about how God must see me. Really imperfect and constantly doing the wrong thing, saying something hurtful, missing opportunities to express love, and instead turning those opportunities into angry words. If I were God, I would be so fed up with how much I screw up. But I bet God sees me much like I see Olivia. One minute she is screaming at me for putting blueberries in her oatmeal instead of raisins and the next minute I’m overcome with a feeling of love for her as she tries to get oatmeal into her mouth without spilling it but is still getting it all over her pants. I still love her fiercely and find joy in her even if she’s being a total pill.

But the less I pray, the less I can feel this welling up of love. The more I want to scream back, “You ungrateful little jerk, kids in other places are starving right now!”

I’m not sure why I am fighting God so much on praying. I mean, I could give a lot of excuses. I’m too busy. I can’t stop and pray in the chapel because I need to get home to see my kids. I can just pray at my desk. I can just keep God floating around in my mind while I’m working and that is the same as praying. I think about praying all the time. And the longer I fight it, the more often I think about how I need to pray. But I keep not doing it. I’m like a horse that keeps being led to water but instead turns around and buries its nose in the sand even though it’s parched.

I can understand how quickly grumpiness can turn into bitterness, which then becomes cynicism and misery. And it just feels so darn bad. It makes one feel restless and ache for something uplifting and refreshing. I guess my soul just feels stale.

Any tips for getting back on the prayer bandwagon?

The Author : Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft
Vanessa, a Notre Dame grad, loves the Catholic Worker Movement, Catholic education, and overbearing Mexican mothers, which she may or may not be. She lives in Austin with her husband and five daughters and is a freelance writer. You can find Vanessa at v.kraft.im or follow Vanessa on Twitter @laluped.
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  • http://twitter.com/reyburnphoto Reyburn Photography

    Great post and i know the feeling. Praying through a psalm often helps me – the words are a great start and mine begin to come.

  • Zachary Hubbard

    Sorry to see that your blog has been idle since July Vanessa. I pray that all is well with you and yours.

    Zachary Hubbafd

  • carol Kruskamp

    Thanks I needed this !

  • Navid Shaikh

    Tell all that you feel to the one whom you can’t see (God) and He will show you what you have never seen! That’s prayer! Amen!

  • Deb

    Pray for the desire to pray! ;))

  • Mary

    http://www.prayasyougo.org is a wonderful daily meditation site by the English Jesuits

  • Megan

    I suspect that getting back into praying is like writing that first letter to a pen pal you’ve ignored for a really long time. You dread the time and energy and apologies it will take to get the relationship “right” again after your failure to communicate, so you procrastinate on the letter. Which just makes it worse. Sometimes, in that case, it’s better just to send a postcard: “thinking of you, long chatty letter to follow soon, wanted you to know you are loved.” Maybe you could start off with a few postcards to God, if that big long letter is feeling a little too overwhelming. Maybe just start with a postcard a day, and build up from there. You could even get real postcards and fill them out. Hey, it could work!

    My little Olive reminds me to pray now, before every meal. If I forget and start eating, she gasps, “Mama! We ungot to pray!” And she drops her food on her plate and reaches sticky hands out to me so that we can say grace. It’s not quite a rich devotional life — but it makes up in sheer beauty and simplicity for what it lacks in quantity.

  • Rosemary

    Wow David…you just stuck the arrow in my heart with those last words! “Love what you are. Pray while you become it.” I’m right with Vanessa right now, only I am not pregnant, but grieving the loss of my dad 3 months ago, and taking over 50% of the care for my mother, meaning 4-5 nights a week away from my own family. I’m miserable and I know it. I frequently “throw up” my misery on unsuspecting people who ask me about mom, or how I’m doing. And I hate that! It’s so NOT who I am or who I want to be! I know the loving person that I have always tried to be, and am trying to give myself room to grieve, and room to grow through this so I can get back to “normal”. I am also watching for emotional and spiritual depression. I love Theresa’s suggestion as well and many times have just asked for Jesus to embrace my soul and protect it from my human frustrations. He alone can refresh my soul and I cling to that when I scrape the bottom. I have been on the mountain top of spiritual connectedness many times, when I feel like my heart could explode with grace and love. I walk through this darkness with the confidence that says it is only myself that prevents me from feeling that again. Jesus’ beautiful arms remain open on the cross awaiting me to enter His embrace, not the other way around. Let’s pray for each other!

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