Instinct takes over where my weakness leaves off

In my last column I made mention in a roundabout way that there are times, too many I fear, when I find it difficult to pray. The reasons are varied, but one ugly reason is that I’m not strong enough to have the faith I should at times. I know none of us are “worthy” of God’s unconditional love, but sometimes I could do a better job in the trust department.

The human being is a very complex character. I guess the Almighty left the relatively boring stuff for things such as slugs, ticks, and shellfish. Yet even in these seemingly “boring” creatures, God has a purpose, i.e., slugs consume dead and living matter and help fertilize gardens and they are a food source of others; ticks also are a food source of others and help control populations of larger creatures; and shellfish? That’s a no-brainer — they make a great “sacrifice” for Lent instead of meat and they’re just so darn good year round!

As usual, I find myself digressing. The reason I gave these three examples was despite their seemingly lowliness in the chain of life, they serve a purpose. If they do, how much more do humans. Yet, despite the loftiness of the human in the chain of life, we are far from perfect. And, getting back to my the point of my opening paragraph, of those far from perfect human beings, I am one of the furthest. I have trouble praying — but lately, I’m finding out I’m not as bad as I think I am.

Human beings are laden with natural instincts. Without any disabilities, humans breathe in and out each day without even thinking — drawing in much needed oxygen and eliminating less needed carbon dioxide. Each day we eat to refuel our bodies (although my fuel tank grows larger with each passing year). Our bodies crave sleep to restore our strength and energy (again, both of which seem to be waning with each passing year). I’m sure you get the picture.

But there is one aspect in life, at least in my life I’m finding, that has all the earmarks of a natural instinct — prayer. What? When I said I have trouble praying, I mean that I am a very impatient man when it comes to prayer. As Queen once sang, “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.” And God responds, “You’ll get what is good for you, you’ll get what is good for you, you’ll get what is good for you, and you’ll get it when you’re ready.” Not exactly a Job/God debate, but it has the same flavor.

Earlier I mentioned that the human body craves sleep to restore and rejuvenate, and I do adhere to that instinct. Yet, I don’t sleep through the night. The slightest of distractions can awaken me and it takes a while to drain my quickly saturated mind. But lately, particularly in times when it is difficult to pray, I’m finding myself doing just that.

I think about how nice and warm and cozy I am despite the freezing temperatures outside — and I thank God for that. Then I ask Him to protect and take care of my brothers and sisters who are homeless, refugees, immigrants, victims of oppression and prejudice, sick in mind and/or body, dying, alone, afraid, helpless, hopeless, depressed, discouraged, unemployed and mistreated. I pray for the souls in Purgatory, especially for those with no one to pray for them. Here I think, well I prayed for them already, so they are being prayed for, but then God reminds me that many more have entered Purgatory since my last prayer, so keep praying that prayer. I pray for the Salvation of my family and friends. I pray for the conversion of sinners. And I pray for peace of mind of certain people and things in my life in need of peace. And I do this every night now. And many times, it lulls me back to sleep.

I don’t know what prompted it, other than realizing just how good I do have it, despite not having the things I think I need and want. So if you were to ask me if prayer is a human instinct, I give a resounding yes.

I will never know the answer to many of my midnight prayers, but I do trust I’m praying them for a reason, so I will carry on. Who knows, maybe someday my daytime prayer life will resurrect. Whether it does or not, I do know my prayers in the dark of night are for people I truly love and care about. And that can’t be bad.

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