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What if I just don’t like to pray at all?

March 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Prayer

Dear Father Joseph, maybe this isn't the place (or blog) to post such a question, but what would you say to someone who doesn't really *like* praying? I'm not saying it should be enjoyable or entertaining, etc., but I never feel any desire to pray, and when I do pray it's just plain awkward, unpleasant, and motivated only out of some sense of obligation. I guess it would be a legit obligation … but I just feel like I'm talking to myself. I've never had any sort of spiritual experience while praying, or otherwise. Plus, everything I've read seems to say that petitionary forms of prayer are all but off-limits; you shouldn't ask for anything. So I'm at a loss.

I'm intrigued (and admittedly pleasantly surprised) at your #2 suggestion … in that I would have thought that anyone reading this blog would already be praying daily, and probably for way more than five minutes. I guess I overassumed..?

Anyway, I enjoy the interesting posts on this blog. I'm sorry if my question(s) were at all offensive … I'm not Catholic. I'm just a heathen who's sort of entertaining the idea of converting… thus reading Catholic blogs like this one.

When I first read your question, I think of many people I know who don’t particularly “like” praying at different moments of the day or during different periods of their life; they are busy and their minds are somewhere else, or they have practical worries, or they are just tired and don’t feel like it.

Your question goes a bit deeper, however, because it speaks about not liking to pray “at all.”

Within the limits of email correspondence and not having the possibility of a face-to-face meeting with ulterior questions, my best attempt at an answer for your quandary (which, by the way, is not uncommon) would be the need to delve into a deeper knowledge of God.

The age-old adage, “You can't love what you don’t know,” is at the heart of the problem. If God is very foreign to me, or if I know very little about him, or if – practically speaking – he just has no influence in my life, then prayer is going to be difficult and it is going to seem like “talking to myself.”

I recommend getting to know God more, and especially the person of Jesus Christ. Just getting to know him – the revelation of the Father – will most certainly turn your heart towards loving him… and then I believe prayer should start to become a sharing and not a monologue.

I don’t think it is necessary to start with deep theology – just grab a book on the life of Christ and see who he is, how he dealt with others, the love he had for all men and women.

The Gospel is awesome. It is THE book with which to start. But there are also others that narrate the life of Christ in a simple yet comprehensive way and serve to enrich our understanding. I recommend To Know Christ Jesus by Frank Sheed, but there are many, many others.

The way your question is written, it seems to me that Our Lord is actually reaching out to you. You are not Catholic. You are thinking about spiritual things. You are desiring to learn more about prayer. These things don’t happen in a vacuum. So I think you are in a very favorable situation and that God will definitely bless all of your good desires.

One word about the prayer of petition. Not only is it a valid form of prayer, but the Lord himself exhorts us in many places of the Gospel to ask… and to ask many times without giving up. “Ask and you shall receive” is just an example. My favorite, though, is the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father. It is full of petitions – some for God himself (may his name be hallowed, may his kingdom come, may his will be done), some for us (give us our daily bread, forgive us our trespasses, lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil). God is the good Father par excellence, and he likes to hear his children ask. You will only experience his joy if you ask him for your needs.

In Christ, Father Joseph Burtka, LC

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Struggling Lifer

    Thank you, Fr. Joseph, for this answer. Even as a “cradle Catholic” I have struggled with the same type of problem with prayer (except the petition part. I ask all sorts of things, but forget other important things more often than not!) I hope the original questioner is encouraged by your answer too and perhaps is encouraged that those of us who have tried to remain in friendship with the Lord for a long time have similar struggles, struggles beyond the occasional “dryness” in prayer.

    I own the book you suggest and I am going to blow the dust off of it and read it… I think you hit my nail on the head: I need to remember and know deeper this person of Christ!

  • Guest

    A wonderful advice you have given here Fr. Joseph. Reading this question,I, like you, feel the Holy Spirit is reaching out to this child and God is pursuing this Soul He created because it is precious to Him. I have no doubt soon, God will catch up with him/her and he/she will find the joy of undestanding the bliss of feeling the love of the Ultimate Loving Father who, through Jesus Christ, came down to seek and save His lost, confused and doubtful sheep. Let us pray this will happen during this Holy Season of Lent for this child beloved of God

  • jessiebeard

    Have you considered praying the Rosary of Our Lady? It is the most powerful prayer, and I can guarantee that you will begin to feel a love for prayer and Mary will help you. When we pray the rosary, Mary prays with us and for us. Also, the Rosary is divided up into the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It is a meditation on the life of Christ in miniature. You can even find short meditations in the Gospels for each decade. In the entrance of any Catholic Church you may also find some little pamphlets on the Rosary. There is no more powerful prayer and every little bead is like a rose placed in the crown of Mary. Go on line and type in The Holy Rosary and many sites will come up.

  • $1650412

    This is very beautiful, Fr. Burtka! Thank you!

  • Marta

    Thank you Father.
    “Ask and you shall receive”… someone said: “Prayer is man´s strenght and God´s weakness” or something like it!.
    It might help just trying to address Him as if he were your closest friend or dearest brother… talk to Him (not to yourself!) and d´ont think you are crazy by doing it… sooner or later you will feel your heart becoming warm and peacefull.

  • Jess

    Great question and great response! I have been there and I did exactly what you suggest…I began to read. The more I learned, the closer I felt. The closer I felt, the easier prayer came to me. It’s all about the journey.

  • Carolyn P

    Iam learning to pray/talk to God by jounaling to sciptures.
    It’s exciting but, time consuming.
    GOSH—-I love being Catholic and wish everyone could see the beauty of our church. Not necessarily join it but, understand it. Even many of our own donot understand the treasure that they have.

  • underhermantle

    Do you have difficulty praying? You are not alone…

  • praymore

    Remember, since prayer brings us closer to God, the enemy will do all he can to keep us away from prayer. Prayer is a battle.The Catechism (2725) says “Prayer is both a gift of grace and a deterimined response on our part. It always presupposes effort.” We must fight to pray in order to receive the benefits/rewards of prayer. See the Catechism 2725-2745 for more. And thanks to Fr Richard Sutter for sharing this reflection on prayer at a recent spiritual exercises retreat.

  • Dan

    Years ago, I remember reading the psalms and being “jealous” of the joy that the psalmist found in praising God. I couldn’t imagine this, since I had never felt that way. So I began asking God to give me that grace and, over time, I have come to find joy in praising our Lord, particularly in reading the psalms. Ask God for the grace to enjoy prayer and for the guidance of His Spirit to lead you in prayer. Just my .02.

    God bless,

  • I randomly searched google today for “don’t like to pray” and did a double-take when I saw this in the search results. (Evidently it’s a question I’ve still had for a while.)

    Fr. Burtka, thank you for answering.

  • Patricia

    I don’t know if this will help Genevieve, but perhaps she could try praying in a different way – although I’m not sure exactly how she is praying now.

    I know that for me, formal vocal prayer, method prayer etc., have always been extremely difficult. When I first felt God drawing me to Himself many years ago, I didn’t even know there were “correct” ways to pray. I just started talking to Him about my life and sharing my hopes and dreams with Him, etc. He is so exquisistely patient and kind that He gradually increased my reverence and awe of Him, and especially led me to His Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I simply loved just gazing at the tabernacle and smiling at Jesus. I did take up the rosary for a few years, but that too became very simple, and now I find that I will spend 30 minutes or so just praying one decade very slowly. Years later, now a secular Carmelite, I realize that God was completely in charge, and that He was leading me to pray in a way that was best suited to me. We are all different.

    Perhaps Genevieve needs to focus more on a relationship with Jesus, as Father suggested. Just tell Jesus that you don’t like to pray, and ask Him for help. Be very simple and childlike. Ask Him to show you how He wants you to pray. Include Our Lady as well. She is so gracious and kind. Truly Our Lord will eagerly respond to any interest you show in Him. He is so grateful and joyful that you have begun to try to pray — even without “liking it.” Be sure that He will surprise you with the greatest adventure of your life, if you only give Him the chance. God’s blessings to you, Genevieve. Believe me, HE is worth the effort.

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