Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Prayer and one's feelings

Artist: Hans Memling

Yesterday I found myself picking up a little book I've had for decades entitled Prayer and Personal Religion by the late John B. Coburn, former Bishop of Massachusetts. Here's a bit I have underlined:
To will a prayer is to direct your will to God, irrespective of your feelings. It is the final and most essential prayer in the sense that this is "you" praying - the real you as your emotions are not "you". When you have said to God, "I will this...or this...to thank you...or to to love you..or to have you," you have expressed the very heart of your relationship to God. This will is the core of your soul.
So do not trust your feelings as guides in your relationship with God. They come and they go. They are helpful when they make you "feel" near God. But nothing has actually changed when those feelings change. God is still there. And so are you.
I have come into contact with quite a number of people throughout my ministry who believe their prayer is a failure because they don't have "feelings" of God's presence. All the great saints and teachers of prayer have reminded us over and over that feelings are fickle. We are to appreciate "spiritual" feelings when we have them but we are not to count on them --- and we are certainly not to cling to them or try to bring them back when they change.


  1. Thank you for this Ellie,

    I have found in my own spiritual journey, that "spiritual feelings" or even profound experiences, do little to counter adverse habitual behavioral tendencies or mental patterns, such as judging (especially myself!). For these, I have to practice certain mental techniques as well as meditation in order to cutivate greater interior peace and equanimity.

    annie c

  2. God bless you for this timely advice.

  3. I like what you said here, Annie, about profound feelings not really being helpful with regard to conversion of behavior or thought. Excellent point.

    And thank you for your comment, Y. Stephen. May God bless you as well.


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