Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. (Romans 12:11-13)
You could write 31 posts about Teresa of Avila alone during the month of October.
The Spanish nun and mystic was simultaneously admired and reviled for her attempts at reforms. She attracted as many followers due to the teachings that came from mystical visions as she emboldened enemies who deemed her a heretic.
Those may be stories for another day. Today, we’ll look at a struggle Teresa experienced that may strike a chord of familiarity in some of us.
Teresa was a bit of a wild child. Born into a noble family in 1515, her widowed – and extraordinarily strict – father decided she was out of control and sent her to a convent.
At first, the brash young woman hated it, but soon her love for God began to grow and she began to enjoy her time there. Eventually, she made the choice to remain at the convent and take her vows.
The convent, however, was a surprisingly difficult place for contemplation and prayer as money was valued over piety, and constant visitors and social functions made solitude almost impossible.
A bout with malaria caused Teresa to pursue prayer again with new intensity, but she soon doubted her experiences when church leaders told her the visions were surely from Satan and not from God. The experience stunted her spiritual growth for years until another priest encouraged her to continue.
At first, it was hard to sit through a time of prayer, but with practice she was able to continue in prayer for longer periods of time, often going into states of deep contemplation in which she felt a oneness with God.
It was after this return to prayer that she wrote her two great works. The Way of Perfection showed nuns how to reach their goals while Interior Castle, often considered her greatest work, described the path to full prayer.
We, too, are often distracted from prayer. It can be busy schedules. It can be a sense of unworthiness. It can, like Teresa, be discouragement from someone in authority.
If that’s where you are today, let me be to you what the priest was to Teresa, turn back to prayer. It may be hard at first. You may have no idea what to say. Just start talking to God.
He’s been there waiting for you.
This is the 14th post in my Write 31 Days series for 2017 in which I am taking a devotional look at key women in Christian history. For more information, or to start the series from the beginning, visit the introductory post.