When I chose this image to pray with, one of the things that struck me with it was that the figure was hunched up over a book. I identified myself as the figure and felt an uncomfortable aching in my back, and in my legs at sitting in such a cross legged fashion. It resonated with a recognisable resistance to formal prayer. When things are difficult in life, and I am tired from lack of sleep and my body is aching, it can be difficult to get up at that early hour in the morning, place myself in my prayer spot before God, and to be there for the agreed time, all before breakfast. Sometimes, I have breakfast first, sometimes I go downstairs to the reclining chair where it is more comfortable, sometimes I curl up and pray in bed – and usually fall asleep again – and then I am annoyed with myself for my resistance and slothfulness. When I asked God how He sees the picture, and me, as I contemplate the picture, He saw my desire to pray, and my desire and efforts to resist the resistance to pray. He drew my attention to the leading lines in the image which come to a point in the book, scripture – His word – that the figure is intensely focused upon; and I sensed that He takes pleasure in the desire to spend time with Him in contemplation, and in the efforts to resist the resistance, which we all inevitably feel at some point, whether we are successful in acting against it or not. I am reminded of the fourth addition of the exercises where Ignatius says:
I will enter upon the meditation, now kneeling, now prostrate upon the ground, now lying face upwards, now seated, now standing, always being intent on seeking what I desire.The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: trans Louis J. Puhl, S.J.
I notice that this week, I have felt encouraged in my prayer; I have been more able to act against the resistance. The generosity of God in noticing and taking delight in my desire to be more giving in my prayer has shifted the balance in favour of acting against the restance, to acting more from the desire. And St. Ignatius gives us the advice, if that position isn’t working for you, change the position until you find the one that does…and we might have to do that regularly.