A Geek's Analogy to Prayer

Was talking to an IT fellow about internet access-issues and the sorts of big-and-small server issues that are the everyday bane of those who make their living on the internets and he described a recent moment of angst:

It is SO incredibly frustrating when you try EVERYTHING you know and most things you barely understand to fix a problem and NONE of it works. Then of course someone else looks at it and goes – “Oh there’s a password in this file over here that we forgot to change yesterday, Just fix that and you’re good”

That’s analogous to the life of faith, and in particular the life of prayer that facilitates grace. Sometimes people get so caught up in the whirling dervishes of everything that is before their eyes, pounding their sensibilities in such non-stop and intrusive ways, that a person of faith can feel overrun by externals and blinded to simplicity; simple facts, simple truths, simple remedies that we could easily see and grasp on to, if we could just step back, take a breath, and let everything we know–all we’ve been taught–come to the fore.

We have all had the experience of going to sleep on a problem and waking up with a solution. But often and often when the mind is whirring away like a centrifuge–flinging away reason, clarity of thought and solutions–simply sitting back, taking a breath and slipping into the stillness of those prayers we memorized as children helps the centrifuge to slow; thought, reason and solutions collect again, in the center.

“Oh, right…the passwords, over in this file…just access the file…you’re good to go.”

Don’t forget the prayerful passwords uploaded into your memory by rote, all those years ago; they can still be downloaded, instantly, to meet all your servant/server needs.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Teresa D.

    Very nice, especially the last paragraph. Althouth I must say contrary to your assertion about going to sleep with a problem and waking up with the problem solved in the morning, I often go to bed with a problem and stay awake with it all night.

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  • Vicki

    “…the prayerful passwords uploaded into your memory by rote, all those years ago; they can still be downloaded, instantly, to meet all your servant/server needs.”

    I can’t access those files! ;-)

    Not a Catholic so I don’t have them in my memory banks but it is certainly one of the things that attracts me to the Catholic faith. As a Protestant I was taught that the Catholic prayers were ‘just words’ with no special power or significance. However, I can see the need for such prayers, especially in extraordinary times (say, of exhaustion or grief) when a person can’t find the ‘right’ words on their own.

    I have ‘uploaded’ the Rosary, Our Father, and the Glory Be into my memory banks. Anchoress, any other suggestions?

    [I must say the older I am the happier I am that I learned so many prayers by "rote memory." As you perfectly say, when there are times one wishes to pray but can't even get settled down enough to ask the Holy Spirit to "groan intercession" for us, falling back on the early prayers of my youth - the prayers you mention, the prayer to the Holy Spirit and others - helps me to find focus and a surprising amount of comfort. I have (as you can imagine) quite a lot to say about the charge that our prayers are "repetitious and meaningless, and have written quite a lot about that (check the category "the rosary" or the "Liturgy of the Hours" - you can check my podcasts on the sidebar; I have a "treasury of prayers" there, I think...if the archive has moved over yet. also see this piece -admin]

  • Katie

    Thank you. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear (read?) tonight.

  • Karen Lamb


    Learn the Memorare. It comes in handy at those moments when you have forsaken all hope of accomplishing whatever it is you need to accomplish. As a child I learned it by hearing my mother repeat it every time she flooded the carburetor (this was before automatic chokes). For several years I thought it was a special prayer just to get your car started. Another good one is the Prayer to the Holy Spirit by Cardinal Mercier. If you have children, you will find that you may have recourse to it on a daily basis!

  • CT

    Alternatively, there are passages of scripture which one could memorize for such emergencies, or hymns one could recall.

  • Cherie

    I had that experience this weeked. I had a lot of things that I was worried about. Things that I need to fix or work out that did not seem to have an answer. I had not been to confession in almost a year and decided I need to get right with God, then I would see if I could better hear his voice. I thought maybe so much damage had been done that I could no longer hear Him. After having given the best confession I have in many, many years, the tears came, along with the Act of Contrition. I have been going over the words in my head many times in the last 2 days. Grateful that what I really wanted to say to God was there in that simple prayer I learned long ago in 2nd grade.