A Living Incompleteness

I’ve recently begun reading A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller. As I read yesterday, I was struck by these words Miller quoted from Thomas Merton: “Prayer is an expression of who we are…We are a living incompleteness. We are a gap, an emptiness that calls for completeness.”

What if my failures at prayer—my inability to concentrate, the consistent distractions, my lack of belief—actually made me a better person of prayer?

What if the more I long for God to be present in my life, the more I see my incompleteness? What if the simple knowledge that such a gap exists could be a kind of spiritual practice?

There’s always something, right? This week it’s my husband being away. It’s my son’s sickness and being forced to cancel all the plans I’d made except for my doctor’s appointment (which I’m a little worried about). And the friend who was going to watch August can no longer do so (due to his illness and her little baby), So I anxiously worked yesterday to find someone to watch him last minute, feeling sorry for myself for not living near family.

What does it mean for prayer to be “an expression of who we are”? It’s not difficult for me to believe I’m a “living incompleteness.” It only takes a small reflection into my anxiety, or two days home with a sick toddler, or one small disappointment to wake myself up to how big my need is for God’s healing nearness. I should pray because I ache for the gap to be filled.

I can’t meander long on these words today. August is crying in his crib. But this is a day when I need to know what you think. What do Thomas Merton’s words mean in your own life?

Can you get better at prayer simply by knowing you need God more (not necessary by finding more time to spend in prayer)? And if that’s true, how could that realization change your praying life?

  • Tracy Defina

    For a brief time yesterday it poured rain. It reminded me of the Mercy Me song Bring The Rain. The words are a beautiful reminder that anything that brings us pain, like our constant incompletness that we feel more at some times than others, draws us closer to God if we’ll let it. I know He’s there in the midst of ordinary living which can really be a pain, literally! I, just like you, need the reminder – again and again and again. So I hope you remember in your pain that He’s there. It helps me to use breath prayers when I don’t feel I have what it takes for any other kind of prayer. Often for me it’s a simple “Lord, Lord, Lord” and you know what? He’s there! Some days I have to wait longer than others to know it but I find when I step out in faith He is faithful!

  • M.K.

    Oh Micha – I’m sorry you’re having such a rough time right now. Lately, whenever I feel things are going badly or that something bad is happening, whenever I feel compelled to judge some experience or perception of mine as “bad”, I say to myself, “This is just unexpected.” In my own reflections, I’ve found that my suffering is often the result of my expecting or wanting some other outcome than is in the present moment. But what is in the present moment isn’t good or bad – it is just what is occurring. So I say to myself “This is just unexpected” to remind myself that my disappointment or frustration are a result of the expectations I created not being fulfilled, not a reaction to the moment itself. This is a wayward answer to your question, but I thought of you there with all your plans needing to be canceled, with no one to help watch August, and this prayer came to mind – “Lord, so much of what is occurring is not what I expected. Help me to adjust to what is in this moment, to let go of my attachments to the plans I’d made and to be present for my son and patient with myself as he struggles through this illness.” I have a lot of thoughts on the idea of living incompleteness, but I come at it from a rather different perspective, so will perhaps save that for the email that I owe you! Breathe deep, friend. Each breath is perhaps its own prayer.


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