Prayer during times of stress and difficulty is very challenging. It is as if we have encountered a mountain along our path and must climb it’s craggy face to get to where we want to be. Like mountain climbing, it is a lot easier when you have the proper tools for the job. Five things that are helpful to any person struggling to pray and feel spiritual connection during a stressful time are listed below. They can be used by persons of any faith.
Persistence and determination helps authors chew through writer’s block, runners complete marathons, and engineers find creative solutions to design problems. When faced with a task that seems insurmountable, it is tempting to give in to despair. There may be times where feelings of despair are unavoidable. Feelings of despair, however, are different from an attitude of despair. Recognize, honor, and then set aside the feelings of despair. Continually apply yourself to the challenge of prayer, especially when you feel it most difficult.
Creativity may sound like an unusual tool for the prayerful person’s problems when times of trouble come along. The ability to be flexible and think of new methods to approach the problem, however, can serve to ‘jumpstart’ the blocked mind. It is like looking at a puzzle. Sometimes the solution is not going to be found by looking at it the same way as you look at everything else. Creative thinking allows us to change our perspective and approach the problem from a new direction. When coupled with persistence, creativity can literally move mountains. Just consider the engineering feats and creativity that had to go into the construction of major roads and railway lines through the mountain ranges of the United States.
The ability to be flexible in how much time, effort, and energy you put into your prayer life is a crucial tool. While rigid schedules are helpful for some people, there are times where attempting to force yourself to engage in prayer according to that schedule is counter productive. Also, forcing yourself to use a specific technique for prayer limits your available forms of expression. Keeping an open mind about how, when, and why you pray makes it easier to incorporate prayer into your life and keep it relevant to what is happening to you.
Honesty in prayer is a tough thing to do when times are hard. Humanity tends to try to hide the struggles we have and when we are wounded. This is an evolutionary adaptation that serves us well to keep us safe, but sometimes is not helpful to the situation. Stating that your needs are what they are, rather then downplaying them, is more then just cathartic. It also tells the Divine exactly what you need, what you are struggling with, and where you are hurting. This makes it easier for us to be receptive to the assistance of the Divine in these areas. It allows us to give ourselves permission to access these uncomfortable feelings and cope with them. It also allows us to look at the challenges we are facing with a more balanced perspective.
Compassion may sound like a strange requirement for prayer during a time of difficulty. Compassion is more often something that we extend to other people. Along with honesty to ourselves, compassion to ourselves helps to heal the internal trauma that comes with times of struggle. It is in some respects, ourselves imitating what we seek from the Divine. Treating ourselves with compassion when we are in the midst of adversity sometimes seems counter-intuitive, especially with how our society here in the West tends to blame the victim for the results of the problem.
By remaining compassionate in our prayers, we use more neutral language and tend to be less critical of ourselves. It is easier to help someone who is willing to accept said assistance then one who would argue against the assistance on the basis that they are some how not worthy of it. When we fail to be compassionate towards ourselves in our prayers, we are arguing against the Divine’s assistance even as we are seeking it. This conflict of interests makes it harder for anyone to maintain a clear focus on what they are seeking.
Prayer, like many other things, is a form of magic. A correctly aligned will and psychic effort is required for successful magical endeavors. When we are praying for help and seeing ourselves as unworthy of said help, it makes it more difficult for the Divine to extend that aid to us. It is not more difficult because the Divine has difficulty offering it but rather it is more difficult for us to recognize when that aid is presented.