Cultivating Space for Prayer in the Middle of a Storm

August 25, 2016

Sometimes when I write, I attempt to put  words to the very thing I need to remember.  Today is one of those days.  Today, I write to put words to the question many asked me, and honestly, a question I asked myself multiple times in these past two weeks — How do I pray in the middle of this storm?

I am aware that many of you who are reading this are not living the exact “storm” that we are in Baton Rouge right now, but my guess is many of you are living your own storms of life, where things feel so overwhelming that its hard to know which way to turn or what to do first.

I feel this is my daily existence.   I feel constantly torn between being a mother to three children, honoring the “normal” responsibilities of life, helping my family members and friends who had damage from the flood, and seeing and responding to the vastness of loss around me. What way do I turn?

Is there room for prayer? 

I ask myself daily, “How in the world do I pray right now?”  There is so much work to be done it doesn’t feel there is not time for prayer.  To be honest, I ask myself this question sometimes even on days where there is not damage from a natural disaster in our area.

The reality, though, is how can I not pray right now?  Prayer is the very thing that grounds us  in the middle of loss, suffering, and work.

When I catch myself trying to play superhero and trudge through without prayer, but on my sheer will power and effort alone, I remind myself of two people who modeled something completely different.

Jesus and Blessed Mother Teresa:

Jesus was in full time ministry, immersed in the hurts, sufferings, and wounds of people’s lives.  He walked closely alongside people with physical wounds, broken hearts, and heavy burdens.  Time and time again in scripture we read how he was moved with pity for them.  He saw, as I am seeing now in Baton Rouge, the need of people around him.  Jesus, though, didn’t just plug along with sheer effort.  Instead, he turned often to his Father to spend time with him.  God strengthened Jesus in prayer so that he could go out and continue responding to what he saw.

Blessed Mother Teresa, who will be canonized a Saint on September 4th, is another example.  Her image remains engrained in our mind of a woman who selflessly gave to the person in front of her.  I wonder often, how did she live like this and do the work she did when the suffering around her never ended?  If you read any of her writings, though, we get a glimpse of what the source of her strength was:  prayer.  She spend hours a day in silence and in prayer.  This strengthened her for her daily mission of serving the poorest of the poor in India.

What about us?

We are invited to do the same thing that Jesus and Blessed Mother Teresa did.  To take time every day and pause and pray.  To turn to God and share the joys and sorrows on our heart.  To seek forgiveness and clarity.  To discern our call to action and to ask for the help to respond.

No matter what we are facing right now, let God hear our prayers of praise and gratitude and hear our cries of sorrow. Let God hear our frustration of seeing the need and not knowing how to act. This, my friends, is how we pray our life. This is how God meets us in what we are experiencing. This is how God takes the cries of our hearts, along with our gifts, and raises desires within us for action.

Easy Prayer:

What I know from other “storms” of life, prayer should take on the easiest most natural form for us during a difficult time.  This is not the season to pick up a new prayer method.  This is the season of life where we lean hard on our most safe and natural prayer methods.  Some days for me, it is the words of a rote prayer that say and offer what I need.  Other days, it may be an outpouring of all that’s in my heart to God.  Other days, its leaning hard and heavy on the Examen to help me systemically bring my day before God.  That’s me, though. That’s the easy prayers that require no thought but are just naturally part of me. What about you?

In the last 13 days, friends shared with me how they are praying the rosary or singing songs  to Jesus or reading scripture.  No matter what prayer method they are embracing the gift that prayer is for each one of us:  The safe and sacred space to bring ourselves before God and be loved.  This gift is offered to each of us, and I need to remind myself of this gift today.  What about you?

 

 

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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