Beyond the Prayer of Incompetence

I happen to be a world-class expert in the prayer of incompetence — aridity, ennui, ligature, choose your own classical jargon — with decades of practice. Let me offer a few advanced pointers, in no certain order:

  • It’s ok to give up in prayer emotionally, intellectually, and every way except physically. Make your body show up. You never had anything else of any value anyway. Just sit there.
  • Embrace your incompetence in prayer, you’ve finally struck reality. Much of the struggle comes from a desire to succeed or have fun in prayer. If you are a celebrator, pour yourself a drink: you have arrived.
  • Do not try any “techniques” or read books about “spiritualities”. God is not a tennis racket or a buffet.
  • Be silent.
  • When you do speak, for once in your life speak a few honest words to God and tell him you do not like Him nor have any interest in Him. ( Hint: He knows.) It’ll be a great relief for Him after having endured your protestations and exhalations of ardor for decades. There is nothing like despair for wringing the adjectives and adverbs out of your writing and the crap out of your prayer.
  • At the same time do not try to escape from the guilty feelings from not loving God the way Jesus said we should.  The purpose of prayer is not to relieve you of your internal contradictions.  Sit there in your craziness.
  • When you get bored with silence, read classsic prayers to Him.  Psalms.   Book of Common Prayer.   Prayers from the great liturgies.   You are unlikely to form any prayer anyway that has not already been said better by someone else.
  • Be silent and sit there. Did I say that?
  • Realize that you share there because He moved you there.   Be happy in His moving.
  • From time to time words will come.  Use them as they come but don’t try to elaborate or editorialize.   Let sentences and phrases not be connected to each other.   Let endings be awkward.

One thought on “Beyond the Prayer of Incompetence

  1. Thank you Tim! This is very helpful, especially the part about showing up physically.

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