Bike HandlebarsYesterday I wrote about Cycling and Meditation (BTW, I had a wonderful ride — felt great to be out, got a bruise, briefly lost my riding partner at Cicero and Devon, inhaled a bug, dodged a car driven by someone on her cell phone, saw a young deer with furry little antlers, beheld the beauty of the forest preserves, waved to a little girl on a bike, drank a ton of water, and got home safely and full of joy!)

David commented on my post and shared some of his own experience of prayer.

When “in the groove” with prayer- whether on a bike or not- it is great feeling. The words seem to take on deeper meaning than other words, and are virtually tangible. You don’t dwell on them- everything flows smoothly- but they are particularly meaningful and they seem to permeate your entire body- not just your brain.

I wish this were my daily experience with prayer, but it has not been for me. It is very weird how easy prayer and meditation sometime come, and how forced they are at other times. I have reflected upon it often and can’t find a cause and effect. Sometimes prayer is “easy” when life is going well, I am rested, not anxious, etc. Sometimes it is the opposite.

David well described the feeling of prayer when it is effortless — that is truly a gift of the Spirit. It is something we can’t conjure up ourselves. We can certainly prepare ourselves to be open to it, but it is a totally free gift of God.

I too wish that this was always my experience of prayer, and the temptation is to think “I must not be doing it right” when prayer doesn’t have that effortlessness. But prayer can take so many forms, so many feelings. “Effortlessness” — which I love — is not the only indicator of prayer. Sometimes we struggle, we get distracted, we feel out of sorts. These feelings are okay too and can be part of prayer.

Like David, I don’t like that feeling of prayer being forced … still we have to be faithful to prayer even in these times. Feeling like it is forced might mean we have to try something different — like pray the Rosary instead of centering prayer or vice versa. Or try a different time of day. Maybe it means continuing with the same prayer and just saying to God, “I’m feeling like this is really forced right now, God. I know you are with me in this.”

And remember, prayer is nothing more or less than being with God, talking and listening with Someone who loves us very much. As with other relationships, it takes time to grow with one another, learn our own quirks about how we are with the other. We can develop a “habit of prayer” by regularly taking time to pray and to develop an attitude — a life, really — of prayer such that we are always disposed to being open to God — in prayer, at work, on a bike ride, in an argument, shopping, etc. It takes practice and desire and openness on our part.

And be assured that this is God’s desire for us — to draw close with us, to be with us even if it feels forced or effortless. It is still being with God.