We all are aware of the fact that Christian life is not always a mountaintop experience. There are times we have to walk through the valley, which, in the words of St. John of the Cross, is called, “Dark Night of the Soul.” When our soul is plunged into darkness, one most important commandment we find it hard to obey is 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”
How painful are those moments when we are externally encircled by darkness and internally filled with dryness!
What can we do when we don’t feel like praying?
How can we walk with God when there is no inner desire to talk with Him?
When prayer is an activity whereby we are enabled to get through life’s struggles and temptations, what can be done when our heart do not wish to open itself out to communicate with its Creator?
When there is no passion in us to walk on the path of spiritual disciplines, how can we take a step? There is a song, in one of my vernacular languages, which goes like this, “The goal is in its place and the path to reach it is also in its place; but, when the feet do not cooperate, what can a traveler do!”
When I sought the Lord in this matter, my mind has been enlightened to understand what can be done when we don’t feel like praying. I would like to make my point by using three examples.
Although we all love to stay healthy, sickness is an inevitable part of life. We know what it is to fall sick. Our tongue becomes bland. Our stomach finds food repugnant. And those feelings of revulsion. We hate to intake anything. Even the kind of food which is naturally relished by us now turns nasty. What is it we are told by doctors at such unpleasant situation? Like it or not—we have to still take good diet in spite of our feelings which says ‘no’ to food. There is no other way. To listen to our feelings at that time is to let our body and health deteriorate.
During our sickness, when we don’t submit to feelings and discipline ourselves to eat, there are two good outcomes that we reap.
First, healthy diet nourishes our body and plays a vital role in the process of healing; mind you, even medicines do not become a substitute to diet. In fact, good food enhances to fulfill the purpose of medicines we take.
Second, compelling ourselves to eat in spite of reluctant feelings not only brings nourishment to our body but also lead us to the point where we eventually like the very thing we hated to do, i.e. to eat that which we generally love as we get well. When we do what we do not like to do because it is the right thing to do, we end up liking what we disliked to do.
So, here is the point. When we fall into spiritual sickness, our natural tendency is to resist praying and meditating on God’s word. However, it is still necessary for us to pray and meditate in spite of our weakness and resistant feelings, for this is the only way for the nourishment of our soul, although the healing is not necessarily immediate. This would also eventually lead us to the point where we again love praying and meditating as our soul finds healing. In our battle with feelings and inner dryness, when we keep on pushing ourselves to pray, we inescapably find victory and witness rivers of living water flowing in and through us.
Sadly, many of us yield to those fleeting feelings, quit battling, and suffer from spiritual malnourishment. This isn’t the pathway for victorious Christian life. To depend on feelings to agree with us in order to do things we are required to do is but to put ourselves on an unstable and slippery path. Just as resisting to take healthy diet because we do not feel like eating is detrimental to our physical health, so is neglecting to pray, because we do not feel like praying, proves disastrous to our spiritual health. Let us fix this fact in our mind—we do things because it is the right thing to do, whether we feel like doing it or not.
One significant principle we learn during our sickness is that we eat food, not primarily to enjoy the taste or because we feel like eating, but to survive. Likewise, we pray, not because we like to, but to survive in God and to live for Him. As a matter of fact, much prayer is required from us when we do not feel like praying, for it is the only antidote to spiritual sickness. C. H. Spurgeon rightly said, “If I feel myself disinclined to pray, then is the time when I need to pray more than ever.” There is no other way to overcome those feelings unwilling to pray than by praying, even more.
Therefore, let us learn to control our feelings rather than allow our feelings to control us. May we learn to keep going, with God’s gracious help, despite our feelings which try to pull us back. When we manage our emotions and keep seeking the face of our Lord, we learn to be led by the Spirit of God, not by wild emotions. The words of Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones are worth considering to apply, “The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand.”
TO BE CONTINUED.....
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