“Pray as you can, not as you cannot.”
-Dom John Chapman
This is a Reprinted Article.
by Dom John Chapman
Every so often I find something so sublime and so wonderful that all I want to do is make it available to a whole other audience. This is so rewarding for me, to introduce to you an author and believer who has something to say. However, I must tell you that you need to watch the cadence of what you read, be slow at first and then push forward. Remember that there are lots of echoes, but “few voices in the wilderness.” Anticipate a blessing. I don’t know much about Mr. Chapman but I feel like I know him. In eternity, I plan to seek him out and talk.
—And then I plan to thank him profusely. —Bryan
Prayer, in the sense of union with God, is the most crucifying thing there is. One must do it for God’s sake; but one will not get any satisfaction out of it, in the sense of feeling “I am good at prayer. I have an infallible method.”
That would be disastrous, since what we want to learn is precisely our own weakness, powerlessness, unworthiness. Nor ought one to expect “a sense of the reality of the supernatural” of which I speak. And one should wish for no prayer, except precisely the prayer that God gives us — probably very distracted and unsatisfactory in every way.
On the other hand, the only way to pray is to pray; and the way to pray well is to pray much. If one has no time for this, then one must at least pray regularly. But the less one prays, the worse it goes. And if circumstances do not permit even regularity, then one must put up with the fact that when one does try to pray, one can’t pray — and our prayer will probably consist of telling this to God.
As to beginning afresh, or where you left off, I don’t think you have any choice. You simply have to begin wherever you find yourself. Make any acts you want to make and feel you ought to make, but do not force yourself into feelings of any kind.
You say very naturally that you do not know what to do if you have a quarter of an hour alone in church. Yes, I suspect the only thing to do is to shut out the church and everything else, and just give yourself to God and beg Him to have mercy on you, and offer Him all your distractions.”
Taken from The Spiritual Letters of Dom John Chapman, osb.
© Copyright 1938 Sheed and Ward, London, England.
This reprint appeared in the Jan/Feb ‘97 issue of Union Life Magazine.