Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Roberta Bondi on the "Obstacles to Prayer":

"I can think of three kinds of obstacles that get in the way of prayer. The first is that for many of us in mainline Protestant traditions -- and for many Catholics too, I'm discovering -- prayer is not something we have been allowed to talk about at home or in church. It is regarded as an embarrassing topic, and a private topic. People who are not intimidated in any other area of their lives are intimidated by the idea of prayer. We are especially intimidated when people announce themselves as experts in prayer - and there are those who take the "I will tell you how to do it" approach.

Another problem is that we relate to God in terms of duty. There are liberal and conservative versions of this, but it comes to the same thing. The prevalence of "ought" and "should" language kills a lot of relationships with God. Nobody wants to be around someone whom you relate to only in terms of duty. I'm willing to relate to people that way some of the time, but don't expect me to want to do it. But for the monastic teachers of the early church, with whom I've spent a lot of time, a relationship with God is one of desire and delight. This is really a different basis for prayer.

The third thing that gets in the way of prayer is the images of God that we carry around, and which govern our hearts. We can have an image of God as a terrifying or judgmental being. In that case, perhaps, for some of us, not being able to pray is itself a gift of grace. Our ideas of God often come from when we were little, and they are associated with authority figures. Churches may reinforce the vision of God as a judge or as one who is interested in us only when we're bad. You can see this in the way we sometimes talk about the "will of God" for our lives. The "Will of God" almost always has negative content to it. What God wants is definitely not going to be what we want."

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