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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  • David

    You’re on the bandwagon already… always have been. And your prayers have always been there. You might recall this bit from Thomas Merton’s prayer-
    But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
    Love what you are. Pray while you become it.

  • Jane

    Do you have “office hours” for your students to drop in? Perhaps set some “prayer hours” for students to drop in and pray together…? You can acheive two beautiful goals simultaneously. 1.) Teaching students to pray by simply being together quietly and 2.) Reminding yourself to pray.

    BTW: I love the “Jesus” prayer posted by Theresa! Kudos!!

  • JCalabro

    We have all been in the place you are describing Vanessa! I agree that just thinking about it is praying. Also, remember that listening can be prayer so just take a few minutes to be still. Sometimes just praying simple “Jesus” prayers on the run helps me start to get back on track. I’d say, just don’t try so hard and give yourself a break. When we beat ourselves up, it just makes things worse. Think about the blessings of your children and a beautiful summer day…you WILL get back on track–in God’s time!

  • Christy

    I have had a very similar struggle several times (and likely will again). I received one of the best pieces of advice during the sacrament of confession when I was confessing my tepid prayer life and struggle to pray daily. Father said, “You have to show up.” So simple, but so true. Like others have suggested, what really works for me is making that appointment to pray and then just showing up.

  • Sierra McConnell

    Prayer doesn’t have to be methodical. If you’re thinking of Him and talking to Him, guess what? You’re communing with God! That’s good enough. He knows you love Him and He knows you’re busy. Do right by Him, try you’re best, and it’s in the trying that counts. You’re never going to be perfect, we all know we can’t be, so just try to be the best you can. If you feel guilty, you’re not doing it right.

  • Denise

    I belong to a gym. Even though I to belong to that gym, I almost never go. I lost my workout buddy, and without her or a personal trainer I just can’t seem to get motivated enough to show up regularly. I know this about myself.

    About a year ago, I realized I needed the same sort of thing in my prayer life. I found a spiritual director, someone I meet with once every month or two, who always opens our conversations with something like — “So what have you been praying about?” or “Where has God been active in your life?” Knowing I am going to have to a have a face-to-face conversation with someone about my prayer life is the only thing that has worked for me in developing any discipline at all.

    If you don’t like the idea of being directed, you might find a prayer buddy or spiritual friend — someone to have a face to face conversation with once in a while, who can help you stay on focused on whatever goals you have set for yourself in your prayer life.

    Everything other people have posted is true — that your desire for more and deeper prayer time, and your blogging, and your attendance at Mass, and saying prayers with your kids at home and at school — all of that IS prayer. I hope you can be kind to yourself, and know that God loves you and takes delight in all these prayers.

    If you are feeling as unlovable as a toddler in the midst os a tantrum, it is not so surprising that you are finding it hard to pray! Remind yourself — however works for you — that you are unconditionally and forever loved, and that human weaknesses are places God wants most to be active in our lives. Maybe you could read — or just recall — the Gospel story of Jesus’s baptism, and imagine God saying the same thing about you he said about Christ: — “This is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.” Cause feeling loved — completely, unconditionally, profoundly, the way I am sure your sweet little girls know they are loved by Mommy — is probably a better place to start a renewed prayer life then feeling like you’ve earned a time-out for crankiness.

    God bless you!

  • Traci

    I once read that a Mom prays very differently than a Nun. This is so true in my life! I rarely have a moment to myself for the quiet , reflective prayer that I might desire. So, I try to say little one word prayers all day. Just a quick thank you to God gives me peace and helps me feel more connected. Hope this helps! May the Holy Spirit give you peace.

  • Patricia

    Thank you Vanessa, I am also in a similar place and I find the letting go of all the distractions most difficult part. As I read your post, again the Holy Spirit posted another sign for me “Just do it” Sounds simple but it is not because I have all this other stuff getting in my way. The many comments here have given me some great suggestions to move forward and to Just do it! Thank you all!

  • Zeb

    Thanks for sharing this, I am in the same boat right now. The only solution I have ever found it to just do it. Stop not doing it, stop do other things than it, stop talking about it and thinking about it, and just do it. That’s not helpful advice but for me it’s the only thing that ever worked. But sometimes God brings me igniting moments, like reading this article, that tip the scale to just do it. I will right now.

  • Tom

    Time to start again.

    Because – He misses you…….

  • Zachary Hubbard

    The book of Daniel tells us that Daniel paused three times per day, faced towards Jerusalem, and prayed to God. I find that setting regular times for prayer is useful for me. Set a couple of daily reminders on your computer or cell phone. Just do it Vanessa and let the Holy Spirit do the rest: “We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” —Romans 8:26 When you don’t feel like praying just slow down, draw close to God and let the Holy Spirit pray for you.

  • Colleen Fitzgerald

    I’m struggling with being consistent in my prayer life too. On those days if I say a Morning Offering than I know every beat of my heart, even if beating in misery, and every step I take, even if walking away from the Blessed Sacrament is still honoring and glorifying Him just because I’m alive. Devotional Confession may give you some consolation. Confession is the perfect place to beg for grace and He freely pours it out there. Sometimes we can feel the grace and sometimes we can’t.

  • Theresa

    My sister & Godmother, Doris, who went to heaven at 58 years old, taught me a long time ago that when you can’t seem to pray that only one word is necessary to pray and that beautiful word is “JESUS”. When said with a pure heart and repeated with devotion, Jesus will always come into your being and answer your prayer and give you peace and comfort and take away any anxiety. Just say slowly and softly, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, and then feel His love and presence surround your body and soul. Sometimes He’s longing for us to simplify our lives and just call on His name. One name….JESUS!!!

  • http://www.onecuriouscat.wordpress.com Jen

    First, thank you for this post as I have been feeling quite the same for some time and I wasn’t sure whether I was the only feeling it and if that was normal.

    Second, I agree with Fr. Milner’s suggestion to first and foremost ask grace from our Lord. I’m trying to do the same; there are times that in my mind, I imagine myself at the foot of the cross begging for grace.

    This is a new feeling to me, it has never happened before and I used to think that I was doing so well in my spiritual life after my ‘conversion’. But this happened and it’s a real downer – knowing that I want to pray but it seems that when I get there, I have no words/ thoughts/ anything. :( I try to take it as a new chapter in my spiritual life that will take it to a new level.

    With your post, I realize that I can pray for many other people. I will be praying for you. :)

  • IreneH

    Vanessa, you have just summed up my life at the moment too. I am always grumpy (not pregnant though!) and am finding it hard to feel love for anyone. Everyone annoys me or gets in my way. Then every evening when I go to bed I reflect on my day and just feel mortified at the way I have behaved.
    I know it is hard with kids, but I find it very refreshing to go on a silent retreat now and again. Lets you head and heart be quiet and still, allowing God to speak.
    Good Luck!

  • AnitaH

    Patience. And acceptance of where you’re at. What you’ve described sounds like a dark night of the soul, and we all need those on occasion. Try to remember that after each night, comes the dawn of new light. So only good can come out of a dark night.

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s such a human and vulnerable post and incredibly touching.

  • Lela

    thank you for this wonderful post, Vanessa! …but, you know – what you describe sounds very much like praying! sure, not the way we might have learned in sunday school, yet very honest. I feel that prayer changes a lot depending on the circumstances of my life… so maybe trying to jump back on the “prayer bandwagon” is not what works, because what worked before is not your way of praying right now? If prayer is all about having a relationship with God, then He might just want to hear “I really can’t talk to you right now, but I miss it sooo much!”
    Let me share a personal experience: months ago I felt like not being able to pray any more. My bible study group, however, decided for Lent to do a “prayer meeting” every day – at a certain time everyone was to do a prayer, each in the place they just were, yet in communion in thought and prayer. I just hated the thought: “but I can’t pray…” So after sitting down several days at that certain moment and feeling silly saying a prayer I didn’t mean, one evening I decided to sacrifice just two precious minutes of my movie evening to tell God: “okay, you know what, this is getting on my nerves, and I REALLY don’t wanna talk to you right now.” what can I tell you… I guess God likes us to be honest with Him. The movie ended without me seeing another minute of it – saying openly how I felt about praying developped into one of the most lively, intimate and fascinating conversations God and I ever had… wishing you a similar experience, we’ll keep you in prayer as well :)

  • http://www.amilner.org Fr. Tony Milner

    Well I can think of someone who does’t want you to pray…

    But don’t dismiss pregnancy as the cause too quickly. It can mess with your hormones quite dramatically and then doing what you know to be good but don’t feel like doing can be quite a battle.

    Then again there may be something which, deep down, you know God wants to tell you but you don’t want to hear.

    Whatever the cause – two things are important I think. Firstly, asking God to help you in this, since all prayer begins with God’s grace. Secondly it is OK to tell God you don’t feel like talking to him. He knows anyway! Start from where you are.

  • Kellie schlosberg

    blogging is praying… I had the older lady at church tell me “you young people post and I will pray”… So as long as we are invoking God we are honoring him. I love the Divine Mercy EWTN singing version and I have it on my Ipod and play it in the car when I am driving. It gets some praying done while driving my kids around.

  • mark

    Thinking about praying all the time is infact praying. Think about why God has you in this situation and offer up your desire to better connect with God as a suffering in response to Our Lady of Fatima. Spend some time in Jesus’ presence and talk it over with him.

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