When Prayer Becomes God’s Joke

When Prayer Becomes God’s Joke

I purposely don’t have a clock in the room where I pray. When I did, I kept looking at it, convinced it had stopped. “This has to be over soon,” was the none-too-pious thought that passed through my restless brain all the time.

Now I set my iPhone’s time to go off when the time is over, and I rarely look at it until it rings. It forces me to trust in “God’s time,” while also giving me the assurance I need that I’ll be saved by the bell at the end, a concession to human weakness that I need.

I hit the “prayer wall” last week. Despite all my efforts, I couldn’t conjure up a single holy thought while my mind meandered in and among a bunch of interesting thoughts, none of which seemed to have anything to do with God. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get that elusive “holy feel.”

To make things even worse, I thought the time would never end, and I kept thinking to myself, “This is pure torture.” When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I looked at my iPhone and discovered I had forgotten to turn the time on in the first place and already had spent twenty minutes longer than I usually do.

The joke, it turns out, was on me.

God has an apparently endless list of ingenious ways of helping us get over ourselves and learn that prayer is a gift.


Image: freedigitalphotos.net/Salvatore Vuono


About the Author

Joe McHugh is a spiritual director, retreat leader, teacher, and writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the National Catholic Reporter. His book, "Startled by God: Wisdom from Unexpected Places" is available at catalog.franciscanmedia.org. He can be contacted at jjmch1300@gmail.com.