Pray With(out) Feeling

Remember that old song “Feelings…nothing more than feelings.” I hated that song. But while it was sappy and reeked of the 70s, there’s a great lesson to be learned from it. 

Fed up couple sitting at the counter

Feelings are fleeting. They come and go faster than the flavor of Fruit Stripe gum. Any couple will tell you the butterflies they felt the first time they held hands doesn’t last forever. Nobody eats on the first date because they’re excited and nervous, but by the third or fourth date it’s like “could you bring us some extra napkins?” And this might continue for as long as you both shall live.

Lasting relationships naturally progress toward comfort and security and don’t need constant excitement to deepen. It’s the same with our Lord. The spiritual life is not meant to be a perpetual, emotional high.

Don’t worry if you’re not constantly feelin’ it in your relationship with God. He knows you’re human. He made you that way. In fact, the more mature you grow in the faith, the more you’ll realize that love of God is “more than a feeling,”…a better 70s song.

If you’ve got some “tips” that might help people pray when they’re just not feelin’ it, by all means share them in the comments. God bless!

Night Class

thoughtful prayerBefore setting your sleep number for the evening (mine is 40, by the way), it’s a good idea to perform what’s called an “examination of conscience.” “Basically, an examination of conscience is looking back over your day and thinking about what you did right and what you did wrong.

 The examination of conscience sounds a lot like the examination of self we perform in line awaiting Confession. It’s not the same thing, though they’re somewhat similar. Confession is a sacrament. A regular examination of conscience is a tool that will help you avoid having to confess what happened after that third margarita (or having that third margarita in the first place).

A trick that helps make your nightly examination more pleasant is to make a resolution in the morning to overcome a particular fault with which you’ve been struggling. “Oh God, please help me to not talk bad about so and so because they’re so…oops.” (Mulligan, anyone?)

Before your feet hit the floor, make a decision to do your best in the areas you struggle. Then in the evening you can review how well you did (or didn’t). Don’t worry if you find yourself asking God for help with the same thing over and over. Bad habits take a long time to root out. Simply thank God for what went well, and pray for grace to correct the weak spots.

Do you use an examination of conscience? If so, has it made a difference in your life? Leave a comment and let me know!

You Know Who You Are…Don’t You?

Who are you? (Who who, who, who…Sorry, I couldn’t resist. The worst part is that it’s going to be stuck in your head the rest of the day. Just sing the Flintstones theme song and it will go away.)

Business man pointing the text: Who are You?

Anyway, I’m heading south this weekend to teach a Bible study (Genesis to Jesus) at a parish in Houston. And in going over my notes in preparation, I was once again reminded of our who we are as Catholics – our ultimate identity.

The Bible is a love story. It’s a story of God’s overwhelming love for his children. And that’s the key to our identity. We’re children of God the perfect Father.

Typically we identify ourselves by what we do, not by who we actually are. “I’m Matthew Leonard, speaker and author.” “I’m Roger Daltrey, lead singer for The Who.” etc… But our identity doesn’t just lie in what we do. Our identity rests mainly in who we are and what we’re made to be. Namely, we’re children of God destined to become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4). This changes everything!

And truly understanding our identity has several benefits, too.  (I mean aside from the obvious benefit that no one in their right mind would say their dad could beat up yours). First, if we constantly remind ourselves of our place in the family of God, it encourages us when things aren’t going our way. We know we can trust our perfect Father to work things out in a way that ultimately benefits us. (Rom 8:28)

Second, it helps us keep proper perspective of what we do in this life. Our job is not our main identifier, nor should it consume our lives. This is a big one for me personally. I’m a bit of a workaholic, and remembering to not focus so much on my work is a must. I don’t have to do it all. My Father’s got my back.

Finally, living as God’s child is a huge witness to those who don’t. Once we really understand and embrace who we are in God, we can’t help but be more peaceful and happy. Every person on the this planet has a Catholic-shaped hole. We’re designed by God to desire life with him, both now and forever. When other people see His children living full, happy, fruitful lives, they’re going to want what we’ve got.

When did you first realize who you are in Jesus Christ? Leave a comment and let me know.