Learning to Pray Well

When I entered seminary five months ago, as a requirement I had to start making a daily holy hour, the concept of which had been completely unfamiliar to me. I had spent time in Adoration in the past, but very infrequently, allowing me to ignore the fact that I am prone to an extremely distracted prayer life. As classes warmed up and papers became more frequent, these afternoon holy hours became time in which I would struggle to stay awake and stress about when I would finish my present mountain of assignments. Oftentimes I would drift into planning when I’d be able to pray next, living days in the future just in order to stay on top of my responsibilities. I was able to take notice of this with the help of my spiritual director, and soon fell into a frustrating loop of becoming angry at myself for getting distracted, and then being distracted by my anger. As a result, I rarely spent any of my prayer time in prayer.

On a particular Friday afternoon on a week when there was not as much schoolwork, I found myself unusually free from distractions in my holy hour, and took time to just ask the Lord in prayer, “what is Adoration?” I was completely floored not only by the clarity of His response, but also its simplicity: “Adoration is a great and special love. A love in which the greatest desire is to be united, to be at one with the beloved.”

My heart was set ablaze by the sudden realization that God had chosen me, in the back right of our chapel at 5:20 p.m. on a November Friday, surrounded by His sons, my 48 brother seminarians, to adore Him. I was seized by a joyful unworthiness, not unworthiness that seeks to reject the graces that God has chosen specifically for me, but an unworthiness that joyfully acknowledges my desperate need of Him. To my even greater surprise, the Lord then told me that He desires to adore each of us in the Eucharist, to be fully in communion with His creation through His presence on the altar and in our hearts, that when we welcome Him, He comes forth from the altar into our hearts in adoration.

Altar with Monstrance

While it always stays easy to forget how much the Lord desires to be united to me, even when I look upon the cross every single day of my life, this revelation has forever changed my prayer: this single experience taught me that the desire to be united to God is what creates fruitful prayer. St. Faustina wrote that “an hour of the driest possible prayer is greater than a lifetime of worldly consolations because even in the greatest desolation, the desire to do God’s will is what will sanctify us.” I’m not any less prone to distraction because of this great grace, but now feel a sense of peace knowing that wanting to serve God and offering my life to Him is enough. I am not expected to be perfect; I am in need of a savior. All that is expected of me is to be willing.

Jordan Damewood is in 1st College at St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, DC. Jordan’s home parish is St. Louis in Clarksville. Please pray for Jordan!