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Experiencing shame/fear in prayer....What does this mean? Login/Join 
Ok, so I recently realized that a "wish" of mine has been fulfilled/granted. I decided to pray a thanksgiving prayer.

There is a black and white picture of Jesus in the Divine Mercy manifestation on my wall, right next to my head when I sleep at night. It's only his face, on A4 size paper with the words "Jesus, I put my trust in you" at the bottom. I've always thought our Lord looks rather handsome on that picture. I've had it (not it exactly, but several copies of that exact picture I made for whenever the one on the wall gets torn) for well over 10 years, even before what I consider my "true" conversion. This is from back when I was still looking, highly depressed. It always gave me such warm,loving comfort. So used am I to this picture, when I left home for about 2 years,and didn't carry a copy of it, I felt something was so odd in my ordinary life that I ended up purchasing another divine mercy picture and putting it on my wall, just next to where I put my head when I sleep. This one was full body, clean/new, colored and strangely didn't feel the same. Now I'm back home with my old looking, black-n-white, head only, handsome, Divine mercy Jesus. There's just something about this picture. Or maybe I just have an immature attachment to it that I should long have out-grown by now. I feel the same about a colored immaculate heart picture of our lady I used to have next to Jesus on the wall...have no idea where that one is.

Anyway (forgive the long stories about my attachment to particular images of Christ and his mother), as I kneel before our Lord in the Divine mercy, intending to do thanksgiving, saying the prayer of the presence of God before meditation which is supposed to open my awareness to the fact that I am then truly before Jesus or that he is truly there with I try to do this in my mind while I look at that handsome, gentle face, telling my mind that Jesus is here, this is what happens:

I get sooo overwhelmed with this weird/unusual fear...I dont even feel comfortable calling it "fear" per se, as it doesn't feel like the "danger", sort of thing. What it is precisely, is a great fear of facing Jesus, of being in his presence. I looked into those eyes that usually give me comfort and felt instead a great impulse to "hide" Jesus was really watching me,and yet I really was in position to be "watched" by Jesus. In fact,as I tried to push past this thought and keep praying, I found that I couldn't!

I ended up hiding my face by burying it in my arms/elbow on the bed and felt too ashamed to look back at the picture. I tried to keep talking in my head but eventually, I think I just told him thank you for the gifts he had given me, that I felt too ashamed to look at him, I think I said I'm sorry for the usual (sins),though I'm not sure I did say sorry...just guessing that bit, and then closed my prayer in the customary ways.

My question:

Was this an experience from the devil to keep me from Jesus in prayer? Did I succumb to temptation?

Or was it like the story of the publican in the New Testament who was too ashamed to face God because of his sins, only said "I'm a sinner,have mercy on me", yet Jesus said he left the prayer forgiven? In that case, since it is so unusual, (I feel it is not something I consciously induced, but I don't know for sure) can it be a gift from the Holy Spirit?

But why would the Spirit make me feel so terrified of being in Christ's presence that I literally felt tormented by the thought that he was watching me? Ended up not praying for long? Could it be about trying to illuminate some unconscious and unrepented sins I am not facing but still subconsciously aware of not having repented of, therefore I feel pain at appearing before Christ unrepentant or guilty?

What do y'all think of this experience? Have you felt it before? What did you discover was its import? Should I go to confession??

More context:

I made a confession last Monday in the course of which the priest asked me if I had done this particular thing. I had done it, to my mind, BEFORE the previous (my last) confession, several months ago, and I strongly think I already confessed it then. When the priest asked,I was completely sure the answer was "No", as it was one of those "once-off" things as opposed to my usual issues/sins. However, towards the end of the confession, but before absolution, I did remember this thing I had done last year but also that it had happened at a time that was followed by at least two confessions subsequently and therefore that I had already confessed it. I wanted to take the priest back to the question but also felt I was being a bit scrupulous. After, I was gripped by questions/insecurity about it and attempted to go back into the confessional but the priest had left. I then assured myself the sin had been confessed immediately after it was done (which my current memory still is convinced I did) and that the devil was just trying to get me to avoid the Eucharist and remain without strength so that I could go back to committing the sins that had actually driven me to seek the sacraments in that particular session (last Monday),the stuff that had induced the last episode of my faith crisis that I expressed here on the "Buddhification of Christ" thread. So I received holy communion then and the next day and put the whole thing off my mind and had no issues.

Another thing, this last Sunday, I didn't go to Mass. I woke up feeling a little off (physically) and was thinking of going/not going. When I decided to go ahead and go, I got late getting dressed.

Is it possible that I felt so ashamed of being in Christ's presence because of either missing Sunday mass or because I received communion after doubts got into my head about whether or not I had confessed a past sin???? Do I need to get to a priest ASAP?

Or am I being scrupulous NOW, in this post? Help!
Posts: 81 | Location: Cape Town, South Africa | Registered: 22 October 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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St. Rubia -- yes, maybe a bit scrupulous. Wink

Recall that the Apostles were fear-stricken and on one occasion even jumped in the water when they really got it that Jesus was divine! That kind of holy fear seems to be quite natural. Maybe that's part of what's going on with those Divine Mercy image experiences?

Do you have access to a spiritual director out there? That could be helpful for processing these kinds of issues, but we'll help as we can on the forum.
Posts: 3937 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I usually could tell the difference between psychological guilt, shame etc. And spiritual guikt over sins. The last one tends to be less infantile and gross. But spiritual guidance is helpful. By the way, I dont know if youre talking about mortal or venial sins. Remembe that venial sins are forgiven by taking communion, by an act of penance, by saying Our Father. The you shoukd confess them but maybe your worries are a bit too much.

I sense more psychological dynamics here but Phil may be right about the holy fear, I dint know., in my experience holy fear was pervasive but more subtle, it didnt feel like actual emotional fear, and was suffusee by a sense of love.
Posts: 436 | Registered: 03 April 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by St. Rubia:
a black and white picture of Jesus in the Divine Mercy manifestation

Hi St. Rubia,

Would you share which image? One of these perhaps?

Posts: 455 | Location: Baltimore | Registered: 23 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Well, Ryan, he looks like this one (the front image of face only, not the back) but in black and white. I think this image has been a source/conduit of grace in my life, kinda like a sacramental of sorts. That is, just looking back over the past decade of my life.

Posts: 81 | Location: Cape Town, South Africa | Registered: 22 October 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Phil, holy fear, eh? I like that. I've never felt like that about Jesus, ever. Back when my interior life was great, I used to experience what I knew was awe in prayer before God the Father or the Godhead/Trinity as a whole. It was a soft, saluting experience, a sense of "I am not my own. You have absolute rights over me in every single aspect". Basically a sense of "You are God or my God". Very humbling. What I experienced in the referenced experience was a tangible inner horror or terror at being naked before God. It is a bit (I think) like the Israelites' experience when God thundered in the storm on the mountain, on the Exodus, and in terror, they told Moses to go alone up the mountain.

Perhaps you are right, Phil, in saying it is a rather natural response at the realization than one is before Divinity, as opposed to the more contemplative sense of awe that is a gift of grace/self-communication that God gives to someone in prayer to experience his presence. My reaction was probably a very human/ordinary experience once it sank into my conscious mind in that moment of trying to recall to mind Jesus' presence as a prep for prayer that Jesus was really there. IOW, it seems that I suddenly believed what I was saying to myself, LOL! Big Grin And it totally freaked me out. Thanks for that perspective, Phil. Smiler Very much. Makes a lot of sense to me.

I am indeed prone to anxiety, I am the anxious type which is why scrupulosity tends to show up once in a while too. So Mt is also very right about it being psychological too. No, Phil, I don't have a spiritual director. I don't even go to the same priest regularly for confession.
Posts: 81 | Location: Cape Town, South Africa | Registered: 22 October 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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