St. Francis DeSales, in a Lenten sermon of 1615, maintained that the true goal of prayer was to make our will and the will of God one, leading us then to desire only God. He spoke of the need to give one’s self totally over to God. He wrote, “You have only one soul, and there is only one God; give your soul to Him and He will give Himself to you.”
So often we fail at prayer because we misunderstand it as simply communication and we as humans are not always the best communicators. But prayer is so much more than sending and receiving messages. It involves self-control and the training of one’s mind, spirit, and body. It calls sometimes for a word, and other times for total silence. It can begin with reciting a prayer memorized in childhood, ending up with quiet resting in the love of God.
But certainly, St. Francis DeSales was correct. All prayer has an end goal. It moves us from where we are forward, toward a time when our will is the same as God’s. Prayer should never simply leave us in the same state and situation as when we started to pray.
Of course, the other reason we often fail at prayer is that we don’t know how to pray. We have the standard rote prayers in our mind, but beyond that, we can find ourselves clueless. That’s when we should ask ourselves, “Who can teach us to pray?” There was One that told us how to pray, but we somehow mistakenly thought that was all He had to say on the matter. He does have much more to say to each off us. Perhaps the first step is to stay quiet and start listening.