Why is it such a struggle? Everything in me wants to be closer to Jesus. There's nothing in my heart that wants to reject Jesus and choose the world instead. Yet I continually seem to be clawing my way up the mountain loaded down with frustration and doubt instead of walking steadily along the path of trust and devotion.
I love Jesus. There is no doubt about that. He is my Wonderful, merciful Savior. I will not let Him go. That much I know for sure. So why doesn't that translate into a vibrant, rich, colorful, fulfilling prayer life? What's wrong with me?
What's wrong is that I'm me and not the idealized, perfected image of me that I want to be. I have many weaknesses to overcome. If I am ever to do that, I need help. And Jesus, being ever wise and helpful, gives me what I need - struggle.
The good news is that as Catholics we have a rich storehouse of prayers at our disposal to help train our weak prayer muscles. The Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, the Angelus, etc., are all tailor-made for developing a sustaining ritual of prayer throughout the day. There's also no shortage of wonderful devotional books with daily readings to jump-start your prayer and focus your heart in the right place. My favorite right now is the In Conversation with God series by Francis Fernandez. (It's easy to find on Amazon and most Catholic bookstores.)
Whether the prayers spill out of a full heart and roll off the tongue or whether it feels like schlepping through mud or as dull as watching paint dry, it's all good. The hardest part may be just showing up and doing it. It takes repetition, time, determination, and humility. It's a struggle I don't think is going to go away anytime soon. But fidelity through the hard times is the evidence of love; faithfulness when it's easier to give up is the mark of devotion.
So there is only one thing to do - pray. If it doesn't come easily, pray all the more. And be assured that by doing so your heart will be strengthened, your faith increased whether you can immediately perceive it or not. The struggle is not there to frustrate you or discourage you but to condition your soul for the battle.
Just do it. And remember you're not alone. I'm schlepping right along with you.
(Jennifer Hartline, Reflection: When Prayer is a Struggle, Do It Anyway. Perseverance in Prayer)