Escaping the valley

By  Christine Thibeault, Youth Speak News
  • May 23, 2008

Are you stuck in a prayer rut and don’t know how to get out? When I was in high school my youth minister said that prayer ruts are the times when one is wandering — or stuck — in a spiritual valley.

You know you’re in a valley when you don’t pray much any more, or you don’t pray at all. Prayers become short, not very personal and generally one does not feel very close to God. I’m not going to lie; I am currently in one of those valleys. But I like to think that I will soon get out. The optimism in that statement comes from the fact that I’ve been through the spiritual dryness, and I’ve come out all right. Yes, that’s right, you don’t have to be stuck there forever either. You just need to take the right steps to get out.

The first step is to recognize where you’re at. When I accept that I am in a valley, I usually sit down to try and figure out what the problem is. Is there someone in my life driving me insane? Am I encountering a lot of stress? Or perhaps I am not praying about an issue because I don’t want to face it. Guilt can land someone in a valley because maybe one feels unworthy, or too hypocritical, to be prayerful. I write from experience. But remember that God loves us anyway and is always waiting patiently for us to crawl out from the valley.

Sometimes I just get bored with my prayer style and need variety: I’ll say a rosary, some standard prayers like those found on prayer cards (never underestimate them), write to God or just talk. Usually, when I am in a valley, I find that I tend to journal my way out. Journalling brings me into dialogue with God, which brings me back to prayer and feeling like I have a more healthy spiritual life. It might sound easy, but it’s a rather long process, although always worth going through to learn more about yourself.

And what if you don’t journal? Perhaps eucharistic adoration is for you. It’s just you, your thoughts and Jesus.

There are other times when all I need to get out of the valley is to attend Reconciliation, to let go of all my sins and feel lighter. After all, it is usually sin that leads us into that rut. And why? Because we are human. But another aspect of that humanity is that it is in our natural desire to look to God (or for God). Remembering that most always reassures me that I will eventually crawl out from that valley.

When I am in a prayer rut, I always see a pattern of negativity within me. Basically, I get grumpy. I always manage to get out of the rut when I figure out how to purge my negative energy (and no, screaming at siblings does not work). How do I purge it? Sometimes I exercise or sometimes I just have to tell myself to snap out of it, realize that my grumpiness is annoying those around me and that I am putting up a wall between myself and God. At that point, I usually take a breath, smile and climb out of that valley. As that famous Marvin Gaye song goes, there “ain’t no valley low enough… to keep me from getting to you.”

(Thibeault, 19, studies philosophy at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.)

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