In this passage about prayer from Ronald Rolheiser’s book, Sacred Fire, the words seem to articulate unconscious thoughts swirling in the back regions of my brain. It’s from a section of the book about prayer in which Fr. Rolheiser poses a question we all face from time to time. He writes:
“We all have our moments of chaos and crisis. Loss, death, sickness, disappointment, hurt, loneliness, hatred, jealousy, obsession, fear—these come into our lives and often we find ourselves overwhelmed by the darkness they cause….How can we pull ourselves out of the dark chaos they put us into?”
I’m sure most of us can relate on some level to this dark chaos, the slippery slope that seems to have no ladder out, only pathways to more darkness. Fr. Rolheiser suggests we too naturally try to climb out or resolve the chaos ourselves, often to our detriment:
“Sometimes when we try to pray when hurting, the prayer serves not to uproot the hurt and obsession, but to root them even more deeply in self-pity, self-preoccupation, and over-concentration. We end up further letting go of God’s Spirit and, instead, giving in to more panic, fear, chaos, bitterness, obsession, and resentment…it is important that our prayer be focused upon God and not upon ourselves…we must force ourselves to focus upon God or Jesus or upon some aspect of transcendent mystery.”
I find hope in Fr. Rolheiser’s simple wisdom to “force” my prayers away from myself and onto God. However large or small my prayer offering may be, in the difficult choice to force my thoughts upon Jesus, this becomes a way of letting go of darkness and a way of recognizing His transcendence. In recognizing my inability to save myself, I’m given a path in which Jesus promises to carry me out of my dark chaos.