Daily Prayer Reflection: How do we get past a prayer block?

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." Luke 11:1

Of course, if you continue reading this passage, it leads us to Luke's version of what has become known as the staple Christian prayer of the Our Father. Many saints over the years have provided their prayerful guidance in the use of that prayer. Jesus leaves us with great direction in teaching us, through his disciples and the apostles, that prayer. But, what do we do when rote prayer becomes all we can offer? Is that enough?

The beauty of the "rote prayers" of Catholicism is that they are there when that IS all we can offer. It is no mistake that Jesus gave us words to pray, knowing that there would be times when we would be lost, feeling weary and without direction. It is no coincidence that the Church continues in the footsteps of Christ, through the saints and apostles of prayer, to give us other prayers to help us begin our conversation with God when we are at a loss.

Yet, it is not the Our Father or those prayers I wish to focus on today. While they are meaningful and good prayers, it is the question of the disciples in the passage above that peaks my interest. When we are down and out and feeling disconnected, how do we move past that block to prayer? Does pulling out an "oldie but goodie" standard prayer move us? Or do we use it as a crutch to fulfill a perceived obligation to pray?

The question the disciples ask may be the first clue as to the real mode of jumping over any hurdles to prayer - ask God. One theologian, (Richard Rohr, I believe), said something to the effect of 'the more we talk, the less it is prayer.' I think sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking in order to pray, we've got to find the right words. Yet, time and time again in Scripture we are reminded that we are able to connect to the Father and Son by the gift of the Spirit. It is the Spirit moving in us that inspires us into communion with God. When we are struggling, it is the Spirit we invite in to change our hearts, to silence us if we need, or to empower us with words if it be the will of God.

Sometimes, our need to be vocal in prayer is its own hindrance to deeper prayer. Next time you are having trouble praying, simply open yourself and ask the Spirit to pray in and through you, teaching you to pray and converse more closely with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May it lead you leaps and bounds beyond whatever prayer obstacle you faced!