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.


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About Melodius Monk

I'm 30 years old, and I grew up at the Community of Jesus. My parents moved from Ohio to live at the Community two years before I was born, so with the exception of a few years at college, I’ve lived in the Community my whole life. I became a Novice Brother in 2003, and made my profession as a brother in 2005. Currently I have a pretty varied life as a brother. In addition to daily responsibilities in our liturgies, I cook, sing, play trumpet, and am responsible for various cleaning and maintenance needs in the church building (my favorite jobs is changing the light bulbs at 45 feet!) I also arrange transportation for brothers to various appointments, work on repairing musical instruments, clean the barn, give tours of the church, make the weekly food menu for the Friary, and help out with various other needs as they arise around the Community. Growing up, I was not particularly interested in the religious life, but I met Jesus at an inter-varsity fellowship meeting my second year in college, and that re-directed my life drastically. I feel very fortunate to have found my life’s calling, and the hope for more wholeness is what keeps me on my monastic journey on difficult days.

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