In the introduction to her book “The History of God”, Karen Armstrong writes:
I wrestled with myself in prayer, trying to force my mind to encounter God, but he remained a stern taskmaster who observed my every infringement of the Rule, or tantalizingly absent. The more I read about the raptures of the saints, the more of a failure I felt. I was unhappily aware that what little religious experience I had, had somehow been manufactured by myself as I worked upon my own feelings and imagination. Sometimes a sense of devotion was an aesthetic response to the beauty of the Gregorian chant and the liturgy. But nothing had actually happened to me from a source beyond myself.
I relate to what she writes here and have often felt the same way about prayer throughout my life. I wonder if most of the Christians I was surrounded by felt this same sense of the “present but absent God” that I have felt.