God wants us to grow in prayer. Suffering and tribulation are a school for that. When we are sick, we often don't feel that the quality of our prayer is improving. In fact, it can seem quite the opposite. When I am in pain, or in depression, or in obsessive fear, my mind feels as if it's tied in knots. I can't lift it to anything, much less God....
Prayer is conversation with God, and it is God who initiates the conversation. That does not mean that we should wait until God starts speaking inside our heads. He is always speaking, calling to us, drawing us to prayer. He speaks to our hearts. We begin to hear him when we become more aware of our need for him. This is where prayer begins: when our hearts cry out, "Lord, have mercy on me!"
We always need mercy, but the awareness of that need arises and intensifies when we are suffering. One of the things that has helped me see the mercy of God at work in my own suffering is the fact that it has forced me to shut up and listen. The ear of the heart that hears God has a very simple shape.
The cry of that heart is also simple: "Help. Have mercy on me. I need you." We may not be able to articulate these words, but that inward groaning that seeks him is the foundational response to the love he continually offers us.
We are dear to God in our weakness. He is close to us when we are suffering. He lifts us closer to him if we allow him to enter inside of that need that groans within us. He shapes us, in his way and in his time.
- Taken from John Janaro, Never Give Up: My Life and God's Mercy (Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books, an imprint of St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2010).