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?

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