When I was a little girl, my dad would come to my bedside at night, and he would pray with me from a little black prayer-book that had been his when he was a boy. I remember the prayer started “Oh my God,” and I wasn’t totally convinced that it was ok to be saying that. He would say a few prayers with me, and after he would leave, I would say my own little litany of “please help” prayers. I was worried about stray dogs, abused children, world peace, and my grandfather who had cancer. I said my prayers “religiously” and worried that if I missed a day then all I was praying for would be lost causes.
As I grew older, my prayers changed a bit. I learned a few more Catholic prayers, and my own needs grew greater. Lord, please help me on this test, please help my parents, and please help me to be a better person. And then, slowly, please help me get a husband, please help me do your will, oh yeah, thanks for my life, I love you Lord.
Prayer was always a little challenging to me because I always had a sense of not doing it right or enough. I remember saying Hail Mary’s over and over again as I tried to get through a Rosary in Adoration. It was exhausting. I also would feel so guilty when I told someone I’d pray for them, and then I would forget!
When I became a busy young mom of a handful of little kids, Hail Mary’s were about the only prayer I had time or energy to muster. God showed me how to try to live my life as more of a prayer. I tried kind of having an awareness of God all the time. I offered up diapers for Jesus and sang Jesus songs to my kids. I tried to treat the people God put in my path with His love, and I tried to set an example of loving others to my kids. If I was outside at Mass and couldn’t hear a word of what was being said, I knew that just being there with my baby was an act of worship and a prayer to my Lord.
As I am now a busy – not so young – mom, it has even seemed at times that a Hail Mary is too much. Forget even trying to get through a Rosary. So now what? Thankfully, the Lord of the Universe, who never leaves me stranded, sent me a holy priest to teach me about passively praying. He taught me that prayer is more about what God is doing than about what we are doing. Even wanting to pray is a response to God’s grace. God always goes first. I learned about just offering Jesus my heart and then sitting quietly in His presence. I like to just picture myself handing the Lord my heart saying, “ I don’t know what to pray, I don’t know what your will is, so many people are hurting, I’m a mess, I’m worried about everything, so can you do something with all of this?”
Believe it or not, this way of praying has given me freedom. Instead of focussing on what He can give me, I in my complete tiredness, just want to be in His presence. I am free to receive His love which is what I really need more than anything else. When I hush and listen, God reveals Himself to me. Either in a scripture passage He will lead me to, or a song, or in the quiet of my heart. God knows every part of my heart. He knows my needs, my desires, and my worries. He fills me with peace and that peace stays with me when I leave my prayer time.
I know this might seem like a cop out, and I worry at times that it is too, but I can’t argue with the peace it brings me. I know the Lord is not done with me yet. I know there are different seasons, and there will be another season when I hope to come back to more active praying. As I sat with my grandmother on one of the final days of her life, she couldn’t speak or open her eyes, but her fingers were moving, passing the invisible beads of a spiritual Rosary. Even on her death bed, she was still teaching me and witnessing to the power of prayer and the importance of more active praying. I hope to be more like her someday.
For now, all I can say is, “Lord, I am a flake and I can’t even think of what to say, so I am just going to sit here quietly and be with You.”