Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.
Sometimes prayer is letting ourselves be carried by others. Sometimes we cannot pray. We may try to talk with God, or to listen to God, but find that we are unable to even begin. We may be too sick physically to pray. Or we may be too depressed or overwhelmed to pray. Or we may be in too much spiritual distress.
There are times when we are the paralytic. We cannot walk. And if Jesus came to a nearby neighborhood there would be no way that we could get ourselves there to ask him to heal us. We would have to let ourselves be carried to Jesus.
Most of us have experienced times when we were unable to pray. Times when we are too sick, or too exhausted, or too discouraged, or too overwhelmed. We may go from times of trying to please God by praying good enough and hard enough, to times when we find ourselves unable to pray at all. Surprisingly, the times when we are unable to pray can become times of experiencing grace.
Periods of not being able to pray put us in the position of the paralyzed man in this story from Mark’s Gospel. We need help and healing, but we cannot bring ourselves to Jesus. We need our friends and loved ones to carry us. We need to be carried on the stretcher of the love and prayer of others. Our prayer in such times is to lie on the stretcher and let ourselves rest in the experience of being carried by others.
Sometimes, when we find ourselves in the position of the paraplegic, the distress we are already experiencing is compounded by the spiritual shame we feel for not being able to pray. But this spiritual shame is not necessary. We can let it go.
When we cannot pray, we can ask for prayer from others and let our prayer be the grace of being carried by others’ prayers directly into the loving arms of Jesus.
There are times when I cannot pray.
Times when I am too sick,
or too discouraged.
Remind me that there is no
shame in this.
Help me to remember that this is not
a sign of spiritual failure.
Give me the grace
in those times to let my prayer
be the prayer of the paralytic.
Give me the grace
to be carried
by other peoples’ loving prayers
on my behalf.
Reflect on a time when you were unable pray. What was your experience at that time? Ask God to show you if there is some way in which you need to allow yourself to be carried by the prayers of others in the present. If so, call, text or email a few trusted friends and ask them to pray for you. Allow yourself to be carried by their prayers.