Summary: There may be souls of spiritual depth who presume in themselves a meager capacity for prayer because they find interior silence unachievable.
“Clearly, then, the idea we have of God can make prayer difficult, if not impossible. We block our way to God by every wrong notion of God. That can happen if we dwell too much on God’s transcendent mystery, if we look upon him as distant and remote, as a God without eyes. A God unavailable to our pleading is a distortion of God. Yet this can be a temptation sometimes, to conceive his hiddenness as an absence. Neglecting his personal presence, we may tend ourselves to become impersonal with God. Approaching him too much as unknown, we may think we have become unknown to him, that he has forgotten us. The private thought of God’s absence is simply mistaken and must be countered. Otherwise prayer will suffer, even collapse. The mystery of God may be beyond understanding. But it is the only way we can pray, trusting that he waits on every sincere word released from our heart.”—page 51
“Emotional consolation does not have disappear from prayer. It is God’s choice whether he wants to grant it or not. But clearly it has to fade and eventually cease as a `desired gratification’ in prayer. It is the longing for it that has to be burnt dry from our soul. This has sometimes been called a Carmelite rule of prayer...
....As emotion empties in prayer, silence can draw us with new attraction. The silence accompanying aridity may seem at first a vacancy, but it soon has its own taste and appeal. With more intense faith, we can accept that God hides within this silence of unfelt emotion. His presence abides in the hungers it arouses. The silence of aridity prostrates the soul, but it also incites a deeper quality of desire, distinct from former spiritual emotion. We can know the gaze of God, unseen yet trusted, because a deeper awareness rises up in the loss of felt enjoyment in prayer. The certitudes of faith exercise then a more profound impact on prayer.”—pg. 78-79
“A silence in prayer that leaves our soul ill at ease may be a sign that we must search more intently for God’s will. This discomfort may be hiding a divine request, a question not yet heard, requiring an effort to discover it. But it is rather easy to refuse this difficult silence and its uncertainty. It is possible to close our ear to God when he is addressing us. We can adopt a forced self-assurance, convinced that everything God wants we have already given. But with that thought the deeper and richer silence available in prayer may become more uninhabitable. We will be pulled to the surface like a diver in water who must come up for air.”—page 88
“There may be souls of spiritual depth who presume in themselves a meager capacity for prayer because they find interior silence unachievable. They desire more than anything a peaceful recollection alone with God and instead experience frequent disturbance of their thoughts in prayer. They are quite mistaken, sometimes, about their lack of deeper prayer. It may even be that God prefers it this way. The manner in which people and events from outside prayer cling to their thoughts is actually matched by an intense undercurrent of desire cleaving to God during times of prayer and extending beyond prayer. This dominant desire for God operates beneath the turbulence of distraction. It is the primary spiritual orientation of the person. Their mental activity may seem caught up in haphazard thoughts, but there is nonetheless a steady flow of desire for God.”—page 89
“The intellect and will in prayer do not remain in easy harmony. There is a tension in the satisfaction possible to each. Our intellect can take hold of a fresh thought, some insight into Scripture or a theological idea, and find satisfaction. The will in prayer cannot be appeased so readily; nothing partial satiates it. The will can never be really content as long as God remains unpossessed....There can thoughts about God in prayer, or an absence of thoughts, but in either case the intellect’s primary `usefulness’ in prayer is when it exercises a blind certitude of intense faith. This becomes a conduit, as it were, for being drawn to a more intense love for God....Only perhaps in a deeper humility of intellect does our will choose for God with greater purity and love.”—page 94
“The closer we draw to God, the less any particular conception of God aids the life of prayer. Yet, certain thoughts do stimulate our soul and at times spark a release from some weariness in prayer: to recall, for instance, that Jesus Christ from the cross at Calvary casts his eyes upon the entirety our life at this very moment; or that all times of trial are passing....or that Jesus has turned to us always whenever we plunged more deeply into need and poverty. These pondering thoughts can be chosen, and the result is often a return to God in greater confidence.”—page 95
Source: Contemplative Provocations by the Rev. Donald Haggerty, Ignatius Press, 2013