I am one of those people who needs help in prayer. That’s why I enjoy liturgy, and that’s why I am always on the lookout for good prayer books like The Valley of Vision (a collection of Puritan prayers). Last year I picked up a new prayer book from the Eastern Orthodox tradition, simply titled Prayer Book of the Early Christians. In the Introduction, Romanian Orthodox priest John McGuckin offers some incredibly helpful counsel for those who struggle to pray regularly.
Always be glad to come to pray. Never allow it to become a ‘chore.’ When one starts to have a regular prayer life, what first seemed like the most pleasant part of the whole day – a quiet time given over to God – will soon enough become a time when one would rather dig the garden or climb on the roof (anything at all!) in order to avoid prayer. This is a normal reaction. The correct way to meet this spiritual dryness is to not be bothered by it and to not give it any real significance.
It does not really matter whether we feel fervent or dry as a bone. It does not really matter whether we feel God’s presence breathing on our face or feel as if he is locked up behind a bronze heaven, never showing a sign of his presence. What matters is how he sees us. We do not need to ‘feel’ his presence at every turn when we know, by faith, that he is more present to us, at every moment of our life, than we are present to ourselves or our most beloved family. And if at morning and night we present ourselves before God and sing his praise, we have (no question about it) stood in the presence of Christ, prayed along with Christ our High Priest in the pure presence of the Holy Spirit of God, and offered our prayer like incense in the sight of the Father.
In being faithful day after day, we establish a habit, like that of healthy eating or good exercise, and our lives are changed dramatically at the core. We stand in the presence of the craftsmen and women of the Spirit of God who have gone before us.